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

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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.

‘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.