Ethiopian activist Bogaletch Gebre has won an international prize for her campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM).Ms Gebre was awarded the King Baudouin Prize in Belgium for confronting "culturally entrenched taboo subjects", the selection committee said.
She helped reduce cases of FGM from 100% of newborn girls to less than 3% in parts of Ethiopia, it said.
FGM is practised mainly in communities in Africa and the Middle East.
Also known as female circumcision, it is seen as a traditional rite of passage and is used culturally to ensure virginity and to make a woman marriageable.
It typically involves removing the clitoris, and can lead to bleeding, infections and childbirth problems.
Female genital mutilation
- FGM includes procedures that alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons
- About 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM
- Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth
- The practice is mainly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who play other central roles in communities
Ms Bogaletch told BBC Focus on Africa that her message to community elders who promoted FGM was: "Daddy, you lived your time. This is our period, our children's period. We don't want to kill our children. I hope you are wise enough to accept that."
The Belgium-based King Baudouin Foundation awarded Ms Gebre the 450,000 euros ($580,000; £385,000) prize for her "innovative" campaign to eradicate FGM.
The Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma (KMG) group, which she founded, focused on arranging "community conversations" in areas of Ethiopia where illiteracy levels were high and FGM "endemic", the Foundation said in a statement.
"By implementing this approach across communities in Ethiopia, Boge and KMG lowered the incidence of FGM in 10 years from 100% to less than 3% of newborn girls in the areas where they work," it added.
Ms Bogaletch told BBC Focus on Africa that supporters of FGM believed in the "subjugation" of women.
"It has nothing to do with culture... We don't even know where it comes from," she said.
"How can something which is killing women, harming women, and our children too, be accepted as culture?"
In February, the UN said data showed that fewer girls in Africa and the Middle East are being subjected to FGM and it is possible to end the practice.
FGM was particularly in decline amongst the young in Kenya, it added.
In December, the UN General Assembly unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice.