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.

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.

Debating Gender-Based Violence (GBV) with male villagers in Northern Tanzania

In December 2020, we held debates with 60 local men in Bonchugu village and Nyamburi village, Northern Tanzania, on the impact of female genital mutilation (FGM) and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). They voiced their views on questions including;

  1. Why men like to marry girls who are cut?
  2. Why men do not like to marry girls who are not cut?
  3. What are the challenges that girls who are cut are likely to face in their society?

This fostered a dialogue that challenged gender roles and practices as a step towards ending harmful practices against girls and women.

Those gathered discussed how men prefer to marry circumcised girls so that they can protect their wealth, earn respect within their communities, and build recognition as keepers of their customs and traditions.

They also examined how men did not like to marry uncircumcised girls because they believed that it would be a curse on their families. Men and their wives would be segregated by other villagers as girls who are not cut are not allowed to participate in traditional ceremonies and partake in community decisions. Some of the challenges faced by girls who marry without being cut were raised and included:

  1. They will likely face segregation among community members
  2. They may be called names and insulted
  3. They will not be involved in activities of their tradition
  4. They will be prohibited from contributing to community decisions

We then evaluated the challenges that girls face when they undergo female genital mutilation. Men were educated on how girls face bleeding during cutting, which may lead to death, and how it is possible to be infected with diseases such as HIV due to cutters using the same tools across recipients.

Locals discussed how to end gender-based violence in their societies. Men believed that governments should more strictly enforce the law, and education should be provided to community members. In addition, traditional elders should be taught the impact of gender-based violence and be convinced to align with governmental goals for abolishing it. More safe houses should also be constructed to protect girls during this period of drastic change.

We then listed baseline expectations among locals to be ambassadors during the fight against gender-based violence. Men should inform the police when they detect unwarranted practices in their villages and should educate their communities about the impact of FGM and gender-based violence at large.

Holding debates and community outreach events can foster a continuing dialogue that will challenge and change existing norms around gender practices. Being able to engage men in villages in this way is also a huge indication of the progress being made, we will continue to build upon these opportunities to have an open dialogue with individuals who previously would have been unwilling to do so.

This debate formed part of our recognition of the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Please see our series of blog posts and our social channels for further information on the events we have been involved in during this important 16 days.

Find out more about our work to end FGM in Tanzania here.

How mapping is helping Tanzanian villages source water

At the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team global conference on Friday December 4 2020, Herry Kasunga talked about the Water Source mapping project that he has been coordinating with the Hope for Girls and Women digital champions.

This is an extremely important project as the majority of people in Mara, and in the rest of Tanzania, are dependent on rainwater for household water, sanitation and to grow their food.

It is also estimated that 40% of village water sources are degraded or non-functional. The shots below show some of the water points used by the digital champions:

In addition, climate change further threatens water access and means droughts and average temperature rises are likely, coupled with intense flooding events with significant damage to infrastructure and livelihoods, meaning mapping will become even more important.

Herry’s presentation slides can be viewed and downloaded here.

As well as water points, maps are also used by the Hope for Girls and Women team to send rescue teams to girls who are imminently at risk of FGM. It is often very challenging reaching these cases which are often in very remote areas, in villages that do not appear on maps. The Crowd2Map team, with a global cohort of 16,000 virtual volunteers, works on improving this on a daily basis.

Find out more about the work being done to map vast unmapped areas of Tanzania by visiting the Crowd2Map website.

Find out about upcoming Open StreetMap events via their website here.

Bringing Hope to ending FGM, via film

Earlier in 2020 we were joined by Liz and Alex as they concluded their round the world trip. They came to Hope for Girls and Women to share their skills by producing a film that would reflect the determination, energy and compassion of the team and the work delivered here. Watch the film here:

The film is about an amazing Tanzanian woman, Rhobi Samwelly, and the organization she founded that is rescuing young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in the Serengeti district of Tanzania. It highlights the stories of girls who have fled FGM, as well as the staff and community leaders involved in this effort. We learn about Rhobi’s story and what led her to create the nonprofit, Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. The organization manages two safe houses among many other initiatives and programs, such as school and community education, and community mapping. In this film, we sought to highlight the individuals involved in this effort to rescue the girls, and to show the audience all the amazing collaborative work they are doing.

Alex and Liz with the Hope team
Alex, Liz, and Herry Kasunga of the Hope for Girls and Women team

My husband Alex, and I (Liz) were taking a career gap to travel around the world full-time when we learned about Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. When first planning our around the world trip over 5 years ago, we knew we wanted to spend some time working with a nonprofit in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having both spent time volunteering in Sub-Saharan many years prior, we knew we only wanted to volunteer if we were able to bring a unique set of skills to the table that would have a lasting benefit to a nonprofit.

We both have had an interest in video creation for years, but had only put together a few videos for fun mostly related to travel before we left on our around the world trip.

We created a YouTube channel to document our travels and develop skills that would enable us to create documentaries, which has always been an interest of ours. I have spent most of my career working in the nonprofit/public sector so while I was learning editing and video creation, I immediately saw the potential to utilize these skills to benefit nonprofits by highlighting the amazing work they do which could then be used to reach additional funders and donors. While not everyone can visit rural Tanzania, we thought a film that brings to life the work being done would be the next best thing. 

We had a very strict set of criteria for the type of organization we were looking to work for and we both could not have imagined a more perfect organization than Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. We were looking for an organization that is:

  1. community run;
  2. working to improve a human rights issue;
  3. focused on women and children.
The Hope team
Liz (right) joined the wider Hope team including FGM survivor and Hope founder, Rhobi (middle)

Hope for Girls and Women not only met, but completely exceeded all of our criteria. We loved that it was founded and led by an amazing, passionate Tanzanian woman, Rhobi, who was such an inspiration.

I had some background knowledge about FGM in Tanzania, having written my final cumulative paper on it while completing my Master of Public Health.

So not only did it align very well with my interests, I also was able to see that they were implementing all of the best practices I had learned. They were the first and only organization we reached out to, while we were living in a van and exploring New Zealand. We had a quick phone call with Janet and Rhobi after sending a few samples of our work. We were then invited to come to the remote town of Mugumu in the Serengeti district of Tanzania. Getting to Mugumu from New Zealand was quite the experience! Our total travel time was over 60 hours consisting of 5 flights, and a very long car ride.

Our experience in Tanzania at Hope for Girls and Women will remain as my favorite experience on our around the world trip.  The entire team was so welcoming and accommodating to us following them around with video equipment. Without their language translation, logistical support, and the stories shared by the girls, the film would not have been possible. We really appreciate the kindness that was shown to us by the whole team while we were in Tanzania. 

While we were in Mugumu, COVID-19 was declared a global health pandemic. American citizens were urged to come home or plan to stay away for an indefinite time period. We were so torn and heartbroken about this, but made the hard decision to return home. As a result, we were unable to finish filming everything that we had set out to film. However, while quarantining in the United States, we had enough footage to compile and edit the film over the next two months. 

We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to highlight the work of an organization that truly deserves it. We were so inspired by the girls and all of the staff there. We will forever cherish this experience. 

Thank you!
Liz & (Alex) Clark

Improving the impact of our data on FGM in Tanzania

‘Female Genital Mutilation’ and ‘data visualisation’ might not be two terms that you would immediately put together. However on June 1st, the Viz5 team and makeovermonday.co.uk did just that. Their global community of data enthusiasts were challenged to help communicate some of Hope for Girls and Women’s critical stats through a range of different visualisation techniques. 

Created by: Priya Padham

Data can, at times, be quite impenetrable and dry. Being able to identify a logical flow and narrative using data visualisation techniques on a webpage, presentation or report, can help the information become more digestible and intuitive for the audience. According to t-sciences.com,  ‘the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.’ 

Created by: Liam Spencer

As part of the monthly #Viz5 data visualisation challenge, the team featured data from Hope in an effort to support our advocacy work and raise awareness of the fight to end FGM. There were so many great data visualisations produced! These were reviewed by Eva Murray, Technology Evangelist & Tableau Zen Master at Exasol and Seth Cochran, Founder & CEO at OpFistula.org.

  • You can see and hear the feedback they provided here.
  • The shortlisted visualisations are also available to view here.

Hope for Girls has a relationship with the Viz5 team through our association with the Tanzania Development Trust and Crowd2map. They have supported with our data collection and mapping of Tanzania, and were keen to use their platform to help us drive awareness around the challenges we face with FGM and the support we provide through the safe houses. Viz5’s passion comes across in the feedback session – we look forward to collaborating again soon!

To read more about the outstanding efforts and this important collaboration, please find the Viz5 article here.