Rhobi Gichama a former cutter who dropped her tools, shares her story here.
My name is Rhobi Gichama, I’m 38 years old and I come from Merenge village, Serengeti district Mara region. I used to be a cutter. I remember how I became one, as when I was 22 years old, I started seeing dark visions and my skin was changing to some sort of a yellowish colour. My father decided to take me to a witch doctor after I had explained this to him a number of times.
The witch doctor said after performing his rituals, that I had a cutter ghost that was haunting me. My family asked how to do away with this ghost, the witch doctor replied that there is no way that the ghost can go away as it belonged to my father’s grandmother and it had to be passed on to someone in the family and I happened to be the one.
Some of my family members were very happy to receive this news and they were saying it’s a blessing to have a family member that is going to be a cutter and make a lot of money. I had time to accept this, as I had to wait 6 years before starting this work in 2012. On the year 2012 I cut 120 girls and unfortunately 10 experienced severe pains and took a long time to recover. The following year wasn’t a cutting year as years that aren’t divisible by 2 are cursed years to carryout the cutting.
The year 2014 came and because of what happened in the year 2012 I had fewer girls to cut this time, there were about 98 girls. This time I did my work and all of the girls survived well. On the third and last cut in my hands of 2016 I cut some 1000 girls including my last daughter. This time only my girl got really sick after the cutting, I tried treating her with local medicines from the traditional leaders but she didn’t get better for three months. I had to take her to the hospital for further treatments and she luckily survived. On the edge of losing my daughter and the increasing pressure from the government and activists like Ms. Rhobi Samwelly to end FGM, I arrived to a conclusion of quitting this job, drop my tools and surrendered them to the authorities. I said this to Ms. Rhobi Samwelly and through her organization of Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania, I was able to do this without being arrested.
Today it’s 4 years since ditching my wrong and evil ways, I’m at peace I did and happy as well. The 1218 girls that were cut by my hands still dwell in my head and I honestly don’t think if I will ever forgive myself for that, but I will keep doing all I can to prevent other girls from continuing to be cut with all my abilities, I know it won’t make up for the wrongs I did but at least it will stop other wrongs from happening. I personally thank Ms. Rhobi for giving me a way out of this horrible path I was taking.
My life after the cutting job hasn’t being all good as I am experiencing hard times financially but also face social denial from my fellow community members and traditional leaders. Ms. Rhobi is now working a way out to help us financially by providing small seed capital loans for us to start our own small businesses to earn legal living and support our families. We ask other stakeholders to join hands with Rhobi to make this happen for us.
My advice to other cutters still doing the job, is for them to stop doing what they are doing, as it’s the rights of us women that get violated by the hands of fellow women, we won’t win the fight to defend the women’s rights that are being oppressed and violated if we (women) ourselves keep on violating the rights of other women and girls by our own hands. It is time for a change.
Thanks for reading and let’s join hands to end FGM.
Translated by Nickson Lukule