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.

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.

Fighting FGM in Tanzania with Maps

On November 16, Crowd2Map founder Janet Chapman and Hope founder Rhobi Samwelly, discussed how they use mapping tools to rescue girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in rural Tanzania during the How Mapping Can Protect Girls from FGM virtual event.

Rhobi talking at an earlier event
Rhobi talking at an earlier event
in Northern Tanzania

Tanzania has been a quiet champion against FGM since its independence and criminalised the practice in 1998. But despite its unwarranted health risks, some families – particularly in remote, rural communities – still force girls to undergo FGM to secure higher dowries and align with cultural practices.

FGM cases particularly accrue during the school holidays, otherwise known as “cutting seasons.” Rhobi mentioned that forty-one girls were rescued during the day of their webinar alone, and two girls were in the process of being rescued by local officials. The team expects to rescue around 350 girls in December based on their intel from educators, community programs, and local activists.

Hope runs two safe houses in Mugumu and Butiama to harbor girls at risk, while also conducting outreach, re-educating families, and supporting prosecutions against gender-based violence. Rhobi estimated that teams are currently supporting around 20 prosecutions, primarily with families and cutters.

Mapping has been a critical step towards fully combatting FGM. Since these FGM cases occur in unmapped regions of Tanzania, local officials are forced to drive through unmarked roads during the middle of the night to retrieve girls. Maps visualise their areas and enable officials to secure the safest routes for driving girls to safe houses.

For five years, Crowd2Map has been working to ensure that every village and person is counted. They now have a global team of around 14,000 online volunteers who map buildings and roads from satellite images. These maps are then shared through a collaborative geodata platform called OpenStreetMap. Janet and Rhobi have also facilitated Youthmappers groups in eight universities across Tanzania. 

In addition, Crowd2Map and Hope have trained local volunteers on the ground with funding from WomenConnect. A woman in each of 87 villages was trained on how to use a smartphone, map their village, and use open-source data collection (ODK) to report gender based violence for authorities in their district. These Digital Champions have continued to be a force for change. They provide the locations of victims, monitor case reports, and follow up with girls after being returned to safer environments. With ODK, Digital Champions can securely submit forms offline and easily visualise data. Anyone interested can read about their work with the University of Nottingham.

When “cutting seasons” end, Hope coordinates with local police to meet the families of girls staying at the safe house. They strive for a period of reconciliation and request parents to sign an affidavit ensuring an environment free from gender-based violence. If families refuse to sign, Hope continues to support the girls in the safe house and encourage them to attend a nearby school.

During the webinar, Crowd2Map and Hope recounted other pertinent initiatives. Rhobi described her speech at the UN General Assembly and the launch of UNFPA’s annual report Against My Will about defying practices that harm women. She also mentioned her interview with BBC World Service. Teams are also working to standardise health centers’ response to FGM by providing guidance on how practitioners discuss FGM with a girl’s parents. They also explained their efforts towards providing girls with education, since many girls face profound difficulties in attending secondary school.

Watch the full webinar recording here:

It is always inspiring to hear about Janet and Rhobi’s work to empower and elevate girls at risk. For anyone interested in being a part of the mapping community, Janet and Rhobi recommend visiting the Crowd2Map website. Anyone linked to a university is suggested to visit the Youthmappers website to create a group of mappers against FGM. You can also visit the StoryMap article to learn more.

International Women’s Day campaign kicks off

Our International Women’s Day campaign starts today!

Please support Hope for Girls and Women as we participate in the Girl Fund campaign.

Hope provides 2 safe houses in Tanzania for girls who are desperately escaping female genital mutilation (FGM).

Hope also offers our safe house residents and girls free classes to support women and girls. We help them develop their independence to make them less vulnerable to forced marriage and FGM

Between 6th – 12th March, we are participating in the Girl Fund Campaign. This annual campaign sees donations contribute towards placing 8 charities into a funded cohort for one year. 

Your donation will help provide the Hope Safe Houses with basic provisions. If we also become one of the 8 Girl Fund 2020 cohorts, it will be an added bonus that will allow us to achieve a lot more for the girls in our care.

If you would like to donate to Hope for Girls and Women, please visit this page.

Thank you!

‘End FGM’ Campaign at schools in Tanzania

We are happy to share pictures of the first day of incredible youth power, using their voices and passion to end FGM in this schools campaign. Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania visited Kukilango Secondary School, Kiabakali Primary School and Kiabakari Secondary School at Kukilango ward.

Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania managed to educate the students, made up of both boys and girls, about FGM and its effect on girls and on the whole community.

Below are additional pictures of the second day of the end FGM campaign. This time, the campaign took place at Nkono secondary school, Kyamojojoo primary school, Bisumwa primary school, Ibiso primary school, Ryamgabo primary school, Nyabekabwe primary school and secondary school at Kukilango ward.

We are very happy and proud of these youngsters who are challenging traditional conventions and are educating their peers in the process. We look forward to sharing news of Hope’s campaigns to end FGM Tanzania.

Find out how donations are used to help girls in our care and to help girls who need our support here.

To sponsor the education of a girl and help ensure she can achieve her dreams, find out more here.

Neema Chacha educates 605 at Hope road show

During 16 Days of Activism, Hope for Girls and Women organised filming screenings and roadshows at Natta Village in Tanzania. Through this community outreach work, it was possible to educate and to show the film, In the Name of Your Daughter, to 430 people. In total, 605 people took part in the road show.

Particularly touching was the story of Neema. Our heroine Neema Chacha educated the public about the effect of FGM at Natta Village. We all admire her courage and her empowering words, which illustrated the danger of FGM. She said: “If a girl will undergo FGM she will be in danger of getting diseases like HIV because during cutting a cutter will share the same razor blade with many girls”.

Find out more about Hope for Girls and Women and the important work we are doing to end FGM here.

If you would like to learn more about sponsoring the education of girls like Neema, please find out more about our sponsorship programme here.

If you would like to make a donation, to help us continue running roadshows and educating local communities, please visit this page.

Cutting season: One girl’s inspiring words

Hope for Girls and Women’s Butiama and Mugumu safe houses in Tanzania receive girls who are fleeing from FGM. During cutting season, which usually happens in school holiday/vacation time to allow the girls time to ‘recover’, there is an increase in cases of FGM. This often leads to desperate girls escaping their families on foot, some to our safe houses. In Tarime, there are two main clans that run the FGM practice, Wairege and Bamera.

During the latest cutting season, there was testimony from one girl who had to undergo an early marriage. She explained that she stopped going to school and got married when she was 16 years old, because her father wanted to get cows as a source of income. She gave words of inspiration for parents and girls:

“People should stop thinking that girls are a source of income, because by doing that, many dreams of girls are being killed.”

Learn more about the work being done by Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania on this page.

If you would like to sponsor a girl’s education, to help ensure her dreams are not cut short, you can find out more on this page.