News from Hope for Girls and Women

How the 2022 Tanzanian Census / Sensa will impact efforts to reduce FGM in Serengeti

In August 2022, there will be a national Census, also known locally as a Sensa, in Tanzania during which time there will be school and business closures throughout the country in order to facilitate data being captured. 

According to Dar Portal, the Census 2022 will be the Sixth Census to be held in the country after the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. Others took place in 1967, 1978, 1988, 2002 and 2012.

What is the impact of the Sensa / Census in Tanzania on children?​

Throughout the month of August and even beyond, there will be school closures, this will be longer than in a standard year when a Census is not being conducted.

A key risk during this period is to girls whose families will use this extended period of being away from school to carry out female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/M). This period is known as a ‘cutting season’ – a time during which a higher number of girls will go through FGM/C due to circumstances that make it easier to do so.

Cutting is illegal in Tanzania and therefore extended school holiday periods are often targeted to ensure girls have had an opportunity to ‘recover’ or begin the process of recovery, before returning to schools.

Many schools and even fellow students in Serengeti region have now been educated to know what to look out for and will report families suspected of harming their girls. 

How Hope for Girls and Women will reduce the number of girls going through FGM this August

Hope for Girls and Women has been on high alert throughout 2022 and has been anticipating an August cutting season and therefore an increase in girls requiring our support this year because:

  •  2022 is considered to be a blessed year for cutting as a result of the year being an even number, so dividable by two. For this reason, families and communities in the Serengeti region are more inclined to cut their girls this year
  • The 2022 Sensa/Census means there is an extended holiday period allowing girls to be cut away from educational officials, and means the process of recovery will have started and girls will often not need to be kept off school 
In recent weeks we have identified 200+ girls who are at risk of being cut in August across the Serengeti region. We have been working with the regional police department, including Serengeti District Official Commander Mr Mathew Mgema, and gender desk police including WP Sijali, to conduct meetings in local communities. 
WP Sijali talking to families in Serengeti
WP Sijali talking to families in Serengeti

These meetings are taking place with the families (and associated villagers) in which girls at risk have been identified. The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • Educate on the dangers of FGM/C and the risks this puts on the girls. This ranges from disease transmission to excessive bleeding, difficulty with reproductive health and even the risk of death
  • Clearly explain that cutting is illegal in Tanzania and therefore going ahead with this practice means families will face legal action which can result in jail time and hefty fines
  • Warn families that if we and the police services are not convinced that girls will not be cut, the child will be removed and placed in Hope for Girls and Women’s care throughout the subsequent weeks and months
Serengeti District Official Commander Mr Mathew Mgema
Serengeti District Official Commander Mr Mathew Mgema talks to families

Removing girls from their families is not the ideal solution but is very often the best resort if there is significant concern that FGM/C will take place. In May/June Hope for Girls and Women was already housing 135+ girls across two locations, so we were already incredibly overwhelmed with limited resources, but we have a duty to help as many as possible. 

On 28th July 2022, 24 new girls arrived at Hope For Girls and Women in Mugumu, Serengeti, having been removed from their families for their own protection. 

They have been provided with essentials on arrival such as clothes and sanitary items, and every girl will receive counselling. 

Girls receiving essentials and welcome in Tanzania

They will also be involved in training within the safe houses during the school holidays until education in the region resumes.

We will begin the process of trying to reconcile girls with their families in a few weeks once the risk of them being cut has reduced. They will also either return to school as soon as possible along with other girls from the safe houses. Where that is not an option (if they are not enrolled in a school, have been removed from school by their family, have finished school, or are too far away from their school), they will continue training within the safe houses. 

We will continue to post updates on our social media channels. 

If you are in a position to contribute to help our work during this challenging period, please visit this page.

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.

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.

Against my will: A collaborative effort to end gender inequality

Front cover of State of World Population 2020: Against My Will

Rhobi Samwelly tells her harrowing story of experiencing near-fatal female genital mutilation and seeing it kill her friend.

She recounts how this galvanised the founding of Hope for Girls and Women and the team’s ongoing work. Rhobi is featured from page 67 of the report.


There is a wealth of important information about gender inequality within the document.  We were therefore keen to share it as a wider reading resource for those campaigning for an end to FGM and those interested in learning more about this and other practices that aim to prohibit the rights of women.

The full report can be downloaded via the UNFPA site from the button below:

An exciting collaboration between FAWCO and Hope for Girls and Women

Rhobi and some of the Hope girls

The Hope for Girls and Women team is very grateful and humbled to confirm that we have been selected as the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas’ (FAWCO) Target Project running from 2020 until 2022.

FAWCO Member Clubs voted in February to select the 2020-2022 Target Project. Hope’s project: S.A.F.E. (Safe Alternatives for FGM Elimination) was selected from the three short-listed projects identified by the Target Selection Committee.

The two-year collaborative project between Hope and FAWCO will have the following objectives:

  1. Provide protection and health services to survivors of FGM and those at risk of undergoing the practice,
  2. Empower 500 families to embrace a life free from FGM for all family members through psychosocial counselling,
  3. Support 200 women and 300 girls who have already been cut to live healthy and fulfilled lives through psychosocial and healthcare support,
  4. Empower 5 local communities to adopt positive social norms which uphold the human rights and health of all community members through community sensitisation and public declarations against FGM by respected community leaders during 2 annual Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) ceremonies over the two years of the project,
  5. Empower 50 girls and 50 women through economic generating activities for enhancing access to National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) plan and ability to pay costs related to health services.

With the global network that FAWCO offers, we can help to build awareness of the need to end FGM in Tanzania and across the world.

You can read the 2020 report ‘Annual S.A.F.E. report – in partnership with FAWCOvia the link here.

If you are interested in supporting Hope for Girls and Women, please visit our donation page, or to reach out to a member of the team, please contact us 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.

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.