Rhobi Samwelly selected for Human Rights Defenders Award

Rhobi -Samwelly image Human Defenders Award

Hope for Girls and Women’s Founder and Director, Rhobi Samwelly, has been selected by France’s President Macron for a prestigious Marianne Human Rights Defenders Award.

Rhobi will travel to Paris, France, in February with the awards ceremony taking place in March 2022.

The Marianne initiative for Human Rights Defenders was launched in December 2021 and will provide collaborative support and resources to help those involved do more and do better.

As stated in the launch announcement in December; The initiative’s international pillar will support on the ground those committed in their countries to defending fundamental rights and civil liberties. 

We are very excited for Rhobi and Hope for Girls and Women to be involved with the initiative and look forward to bringing you further updates in due course.

Hope’s 16 Days of Activism against GBV and FGM

Between November 25th and December 30th 2021, Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania worked with the Serengeti District Office (District Community Development Officer, District Social Welfare) and Gender Desk Police Officers to create awareness of FGM and GBV, through meetings, roadshows and village outreach.

Rhobi talking at community event during 16 Days of Activism

These sessions were organised to bring awareness to Mugumu-Serengeti villages such as Itununu, Rung’abure, Manyata, Gesarya, Kebanchabancha, Gwikongo, Merenga, Tamkeri, Mbilikiri, and Bisarara, which have been identified as having a high number of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases recently. Our work during this period focused on educating the communities on the impact of GBV and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and Alternative Rites of Passage to the community. There were a total of 9,723 men and 15,009 women reached directly through the sessions.

A collaborative approach to ending GBV and FGM

Hope for Girls and Women organised a forum in collaboration with Serengeti District Office (District Community Development Officer, District Social Welfare officers), Gender Desk Police, Serengeti District Commissioner, and District Judge, which a total of 100 people attended.

The forum attendee list included retired cutters, retired elders, Digital Champions, church leaders, village executive officers, community members, and other partners. The purpose was to have a dialogue on the best approach to mitigate FGM and GBV by law, in order for communities to abandon these traditions, which hinder the safety of girls and women and their rights.

The discussion was held as a dialogue for both sides to share their insight about the issues of GBV and FGM in our community from the District level to the community level. The Dialogue was led by the District Commissioner.

The outcome of the FGM and GBV forum

We all agreed on working closely together to make sure education about the impact of GBV and FGM can be given to the community starting at a family level, church, schools, and even through the media.

Police and court officers, village executive officers, and community members were encouraged to work together to ensure all parties are collaborating to rebuke GBV and FGM in our community.

Encouraging girls to stand up and say no

On December 15th 2021, 150 members of Tanzania and Zanzibar Gender Police Desks, accompanied by the Regional Police Commander, visited Butiama Safe House and spoke to the girls to encourage them to stand against all odds. They shared insight on how we can work together on helping the fight against GBV and FGM in the Mara region.

Tanzania and Zanzibar Gender Desk Officers

If you would like to make a donation to help us continue our important work in Tanzania, please find out more here.

If you are interested in sponsoring the education of girls in our care, please read more here.

If you wish to get in contact, you can find our contact details here.

Hope for Girls and Women awarded a micro grant to help map Tanzania

Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania is among seven organisations that have be awarded an Open Map Development Tanzania (OMDTZ) Community Impact Microgrant of $5,000. OMDTZ selected recipient organisations with the intention;

The grants provided will support these communities to leverage the use of OSM and mapping to help solve different community challenges.

Mapping is playing a key role in our fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and the empowerment of Tanzanian women as remote villages are made more accessible to authorities.

Hope will use the grant to expand the existing Open Street Map (OSM) Community around Mugumu, Serengeti. By improving our maps of the district, we are able to provide better support and advice to girls and women in Mugumu.

The grant will help our work to recruit 25 new OSM community mappers around Mugumu who will be trained on different tools that support mapping, including:

Maps.me application
ID editor
JOSM

They will also receive training in how to use Open Data Kit Collector for Data Collection from the team at our partner organisation, Crowd2Map.

The goal is to map all of the health centres available in 30 villages, showing the services provided at each, and whether each centre’s facilities are adequate in relation to the community population they need to support.

The grant will additionally help us to buy equipment such as laptops, smartphones and routers.  We will also be able to rent a hall for workshops and training, provide transportation for data collection, and support other logistical requirements for a period of six months.

Mapping training using smartphones in Tanzania

At this point, we will present back our findings to the community and also create a map of each village, showing the health centre facilities that are available there.

75% of those recruited will be female, which helps to promote and encourage the inclusion of women in technology and OSM in Tanzania. We are seeing increasing numbers of women wishing to train and contribute to maps, and they are also getting a lot of enjoyment seeing the benefits of technology on their daily lives and that of the local community. You can read about our recent training of Digital Champions in Butiama District here, including how their work will help the fight against FGM in Tanzania.

We are excited to be welcoming to the workshop and training Mara Red Cross and SETCO Youth mappers who will be involved to learn more about how mapping can help solve community challenges.

We look forward to bringing you further updates on this Microgrant and the project in general.

If you are interested in donating to Hope for Girls and Women and would like to know how contributions are used, you can find out more here.

To get in touch with us, please visit this page.

New Digital Champions recruited and trained by Hope, with funding from UNFPA Tanzania

By Herry Kasunga

In June, Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania and Masanga Center recruited 59 Digital champions in Butiama District, Tanzania. Each village has one Digital Champion who will educate girls and women in their communities about the impact of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The Digital Champions were given smartphones, with access to apps to support their work to promote gender equality in their communities. The phone apps include:

  1. ODK for reporting GBV cases happening in their villages, this data is then submitted to Hope and Gender Desk Police for investigation and rescue of girls at risk;
  2. Maps.me for mapping features such as hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, schools, police stations, churches and safe places around their villages.

The event was attended by Butiama District Social Welfare, with Butiama Gender Desk Police contributing to training the Digital champions on GBV, whilst also sharing their own experiences.

The Training was conducted over two days in June 2021. Day one covered the purpose of Digital champions and expectation of their works, an introduction to and types of GBV, and FGM.

For many of the Digital Champions, it was their first time holding a smartphone, so we showed them how to:

  • switch the phone on/off
  • make a call
  • send texts/SMS
  • view and interact with apps

Day 2 included a recap of day one’s training in the morning, followed by training on the ODK tool, collating the required information and how to send this to Hope. We went through all of the questions available in the forms to ensure the Digital Champions were clear on appropriate and helpful responses.

We also demonstrated how to use WhatsApp for communication and support, in case there are any challenges.  A WhatsApp group was set up on the day, allowing all of the Digital Champions to get support from their peers.

Digital Champions taking notes in training

At the end of the training, all of the digital champions signed a contract confirming receipt of their smartphones and that they are ready to work as Digital champions and help fight GBV and FGM in their villages.

Special thanks to UNFPA Tanzania, through their funding, this training was made possible.

Read more about our Digital Champions programme here.

Facilitating the creation of female entrepreneur groups in Serengeti and Butiama

Rhobi teaching entrepreneurs

The Hope team recently organised a gathering for women and girls in Serengeti and Butiama, Tanzania, to learn important skills to help them generate income. The entrepreneurship training included the sharing of information on how to work economically, ensuring a profit can be made from their industry of choice.

We tasked the women with identifying a business initiative that they wanted to explore in more detail, and we helped them to plan out how best to make this venture a success. Support in numbers can be important for a new business, with different skill sets and strengths coming together to build an even stronger solution.

Hope facilitated the women forming mutual interest groups, and provided seed capital of TSH 500,000 (Approx €182 Euros / $216 USD) to help them to start their project.

Talal Rafi explains in his article, Why Women Entrepreneurs Are Critical To Economic Growth, for Forbes “…the immense potential of women when given a more level playing field, such as mentoring, capacity building and access to credit, as well as their inherent leadership skills critical to success in entrepreneurship.”

One of the purposes of helping these girls and women to form their new businesses, is the independence it provides.

The income will help them to support themselves and their families, and will play a role in reducing gender based violence from their husbands and other family members.

Women receiving entrepreneurship training

Running the businesses will give the women confidence and a sense of empowerment, allowing these new entrepreneurs to realise that they can fulfil their dreams.

As well as providing two safe houses for girls escaping from FGM, GBV, child marriage, and rape, Hope also organises a number of event and initiatives, such as this entrepreneurship training. You can read more about these projects in our monthly updates from Hope’s founder and director, Rhobi.

A weekend of education and empowerment for girls in the Serengeti District

On the weekend of 29th and 30th May 2021, the Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania team collaborated with Grumeti Fund to provide empowerment sessions for local school girls in the Serengeti District.

On Saturday, 288 girls at Chamriho Secondary School were invited to take part.

Amina, who has stayed with Hope, bravely told her story to the girls gathered. This was an opportunity to inspire other girls and encourage them to seek help if they know that plans are being made by their family to have them cut.

Empowerment event

Amina has been able to reside at a Hope Safe House away from her family home, and acted as a proud spokesperson on Saturday.

Smaller group sessions took place throughout the day:

  1. Form four girls took part in a discussion about human resources
  2. Form three girls took part in an entrepreneurship workshop, which provided direction and skills to support them in setting up their own businesses, allowing them to be more independent as they move into womanhood.
  3. Form two girls took part in sessions focused on the importance of having personal plans and being committed to making the best of your own future.

To support menstrual hygiene and environmental sustainability, the girls in attendance were all given re-usable pads.

On Sunday, 703 girls gathered from schools close to Rigicha. During this session, we covered:

  1. Reproductive health and the menstrual cycle
  2. Gender, the effects of gender based violence (GBV) and female genital mutilation (FGM)
  3. Distribution of pads to all of the girls gathered

This was an important weekend of outreach and education, reaching 991 girls. We have found events like this are incredibly helpful for informing not just those gathered – but also their family and friends, as the girls will often go home and confidently discuss what they have learnt.

Thank you to The Grumeti Fund, Amina, and everyone on the Hope for Girls and Women team, as well as everyone who attended the sessions.

Cutter jailed for 10 years, with victim to receive compensation

In April, a female genital mutilation (FGM) cutter from Kitarungu Village, Tanzania, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay 1,000,000 TZS (c. $430USD / €350) to the victim. The girl’s parents were also jailed for 5 years for their involvement in arranging for the cutting to take place. The case was heard at Mugumu District Court on April 22nd 2021, with the cutting taking place in April 2020.

Police Officer Sijali and Mgesi, the cutter, is sentenced to prison for 10 years
Police Officer Sijali (left) and Mgesi (right), the cutter

FGM was criminalised in Tanzania in 1998 but still happens, particularly in rural areas where it is easier to conduct the practice away from authorities. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to schools being closed which in turn opened a longer window for girls to ‘recover’ away from the eyes of the education system. School holidays will routinely be exploited for this reason, and these periods have come to be known as ‘cutting seasons’. They will often lead to an influx of girls in the Hope for Girls and Women safe houses.

In this case, the victim was admitted to hospital after being rescued and brought to the Hope for Girls and Women safe house in Serengeti. When girls are brought to the Hope safe houses, they are first given a health check, to identify if they have been cut. This is carried out by a health care professional, with action taken accordingly, as seen in this case, to get the necessary treatment where needed. Counselling is also provided to girls at the safe houses, regardless of whether they have been cut or not.

We hope that this will act as a powerful lesson for both cutters and parents alike, who are considering continuing this practice. We truly believe that the changing of mindsets towards this archaic practice through education is a key way to eradicating FGM in Tanzania. We have been conducting programmes to re-educate cutters and support them in making new, more positive life choices. You can read more about this important work here.

Using technology to aid farming in rural Tanzania

Farmer training in Serengeti

On 26th April 2021, we commenced agri-technology farmer training in Matare, Serengeti. This is an exciting way of supporting the local community with their work, whilst also engaging the attendees in education and conversation around gender based violence. Hope for Girls and Women, Tanzania, collaborated with PlantNuru, Kenya, to provide the training which explored the use of digital technology to help farmers protect their crops.

We had 20 farmers and 7 community leaders involved in the two day session.  The official opening of the training was delivered by Serengeti’s District Executive Director.  The District Agricultural Officer and District Community Development Officer were also in attendance.

Farmers participate in training

Day one covered the types of disease that can be found in cassava and Maize and how to differentiate between diseases and their impact to crops.

We looked at the approaches that can be used to mitigate the infection of these crops, providing a solution on how to plant cassava and maize when you want to increase your production and possible ways of planting cassava for seed.

Day two included a practical session on how to record crop type data by using PlantVillage app. We visited a maize and cassava farm where disease identification exercises were carried out. Attendees were shown how they can use the  PlantVillage app for detection of diseases and Pests. Farmers can seek advice from extension officers who are close by as well as from other users, using the app.

This is an innovative new stepping stone for farmers to benefit from agri-technology, which will help the production of their crops.

Twenty farmers were given smart phones at the end of the session.  As well as the PlantVillage app, their phones were installed with maps.me and the ODK form to support the reporting of GBV/FGM cases. All farmers signed the contract for receiving their phones to commit themselves on how to use their phones for the targeted work.

Farmer receive their smart phones

We had very positive feedback from the farmers involved in the session who welcomed this opportunity to enhance their output and support their local community, including vulnerable girls and women.

The PlantVillage app can be downloaded on the GooglePlay and Apple App Store.

We will bring you further updates on this important collaboration between Hope for Girls and Women and PlantNuru, as well as with the wider community, over the coming months.

Detecting pests in Maize and Cassava with the PlantNuru app

Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy in Tanzania and the families of girls at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) are often farmers. By identifying ways to overcome the challenges these farmers face day-to-day, we can also forge bonds that help us to educate on gender equality.

Although in theory there are networks of agriculture extension officers to help them, often in practice they are too far away to be of any use. Therefore, we were very pleased to learn of the PlantVillage Nuru app which seeks to help farmers improve their practice.  In February 2021 TDT  had an online training session for people interested in how to use this free app to detect Fall Army Worm (a pest for maize) and Cassava diseases which was attended by our volunteer and GIS specialist Herry Kasunga. 

Since then he has been out training our Digital Champions to use the app. As maize and cassava are the main staple crops grown in their areas this is particularly important.

Here you can see the Digital Champion for Burunga village, Agness Marinya checking her crops with the app.  She says, “It is an easy way to monitor crops and give you feedback on how crops grow, and I will provide training to other farmers in my village.

“With better agriculture, people are less likely to need to cut their daughters and sell them for cows.  I have 3 children all girls. I am so proud of my work as a Digital Champion in Burunga, because there have been so much changes in my village.

“Now the number of girls who are cut is reduced. We all need to raise our voices to say no so our children can live free from FGM.”

The slides from our training session are here, and the recording here.  You can also view and download the slides Herry used for training the digital champions below.

Please watch this space for further updates on how this helpful app is being used in Tanzania. 

To find out more about Hope for Girls and Women’s work to improve gender equality and end FGM in Tanzania here.

Rhobi Samwelly participates in women’s health talk

On 5th December 2020, East African Education Foundation and TUHEDA hosted a Women’s Health Talk to discuss the impact of female genital mutilation (FGM). Hope founder, Rhobi Samwelly, joined a panel with OB-GYN specialist Dr. Leila Rusamba and international broadcaster Zuhra Yunus. Together, they educated attendees on the health risks of FGM and the strides being made to educate communities.

They stressed the biological implications of cutting girls without consent across the four types of FGM. When girls lose their clitoris, they essentially lose a part of their body that they don’t yet understand. They do not comprehend what they have lost, and how this practice will redefine their attitudes towards intimacy, which in turn increases the potential of domestic violence. In addition, while the clitoris may be considered a small part of the human body, it is served by an artery that contains a major blood supply, so when the artery is cut, there is the potential to bleed to death.

FGM also affects childbirth, particularly due to the extent of cutting and the scarring left behind. In the most severe case, when genitalia is completely closed, there is no passage for the baby to come out. Thus there is a high likelihood for the woman to suffer a hemorrhage, and for the death of the woman and child. In cases of partial removal, the scar tissue that has healed does not stretch as much as normal tissue, increasing health risks and pain levels during birth.

However, Rhobi discussed how our work has visibly changed attitudes towards FGM in rural Tanzania. She can see girls standing up for themselves and refusing to undergo this rampant practice, with a prevalence of around 32%1 in the Mara region. Parents have also started refusing for their girls to be cut, and laws have been more strictly enforced to send cutters to prison.

She also highlighted the support received from boys and men. While Mara is a male-dominated area, men are a part of our FGM clubs and attempt to educate other men about the effects of gender-based violence and harmful traditions. Boys have increasingly refused to marry girls who have been cut after learning about unwarranted health risks. There have been challenges in educating families who value the income generated from cutting. Families receive higher dowries when girls who marry are cut. Yet through our community dialogue, and awareness generation, Rhobi believes that progress is being made.

Rhobi then discussed some of the Hope initiatives taking place during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, including a village debate with men around gender-based issues, a mapathon during Human Rights Day, and a girls’ march in front of government leaders. These actions are designed to raise awareness around the issue of FGM. Rhobi summarised:

“You have to create awareness. You have to teach them about the effects of FGM. Change is slow, but one day FGM will be history.”

Watch the full recording here:

1 UNFPA report on FGM

Find out more about FGM in Tanzania here.

See which upcoming events Hope for Girls and Women will be involved in here.

To get in touch with the team, please visit this page.