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Fighting Female Genital Mutilation During COVID-19 in Tanzania

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Rhobi Samwelly, FGM survivor and director of Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania outlines the impact of COVID-19 on her work protecting girls from FGM in Tanzania and the challenges she is facing.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Fighting Female Genital Mutilation During COVID-19 in Tanzania

  1. 1. Fighting Female Genital Mutilation During COVID-19
  2. 2. What we usually do: (and still do in bold) • Run 2 Safe Houses • Community Outreach • Set up anti-FGM school clubs • Film Screenings • Map the villages where girls are at risk • Set up Digital Champions in villages to monitor and protect girls • Re-educate cutters • Help in prosecutions for FGM, rape and GBV.
  3. 3. Safe Houses: We run Safe Houses at Mugumu and Butiama. These offer a sanctuary to girls refusing FGM during the cutting season. We have rescued over 1000 girls from FGM. Afterwards we start a process of reconciliation with their families and most return home, where we continue to monitor them. We expect this to take much longer during COVID, especially if the schools remain closed. Those who can’t continue their schooling if they can, or learn a trade such as tailoring.
  4. 4. Rescuing girls – challenges now • Cutting season started early and is ongoing due to school closures • Police lack fuel to get to villages, so we have to provide it • Police have no protective masks, so we have made them • Increased number of girls due to longer season means more overcrowding and great pressure on budgets.
  5. 5. Increased number of girls a major challenge • Huge pressure on food budget, particularly if costs rise due to COVID • Overcrowding risks rapid spread of infection • We have tried to mitigate this by converting tailoring classroom into quarantine room, and by moving some girls to Butiama Safe House, 3.5 hours away.
  6. 6. Community Outreach: (currently on hold) We have many years experience of delivering village events in our community. These include dramas, traditional dance and music, debates and community forums. We deliver a compelling message on the dangers of FGM and girls’ rights. Local FGM survivor and Hope Director Rhobi Samwelly
  7. 7. School anti FGM clubs: We have set up 29 anti-FGM school clubs focused on human rights and the health implications of FGM involving 720 pupils. Currently all schools are closed until further notice – denying girls access to supportive teachers and peers and isolating them in dangerous home conditions where they are at risk of FGM, child marriage and GBV.
  8. 8. Film Screenings: Rhobi’s work was featured in the award winning film, In the Name of Your Daughter. A grant from CFLI allowed us to organise film screenings in Butiama villages to take the powerful message of hope and resilience shown in the film, and telling girls they have the right not to be cut. (We hope to resume this in the future, currently on hold. )
  9. 9. Mapping: Typically we would get a phone call in the middle of the night saying girls were about to be cut in x village. We had no maps, it is dark and there are no road signs, so it was very difficult to find them quickly. Therefore since 2015 we have been working with Crowd2Map to map these villages to help protect vulnerable girls. Maps continue to be extremely useful when rescuing girls by us and the police.
  10. 10. Digital Champions: We set up digital champions in all 87 villages in Serengeti, with a smartphone for the 1st time, linked in a WhatsApp group. They are based in the villages and help us monitor and protect the girls in their village, and report any issues. Digital Champions are particularly important now when getting to villages is more challenging for us.
  11. 11. Re-educating Cutters: Hope has trained 6 ex-cutters on how to start alternative small businesses selling cereals in the market, and provided them with small seed capital to do this. Such small businesses are under threat due to COVID so we are looking at alternative ways of supporting them to ensure they don’t return to cutting.
  12. 12. Particular challenges during COVID - now • Increased number of girls due to school closures • Difficulty in quarantining girls who may have been infected in very crowded conditions • Big drop in funding due to no tourism sales and major challenges of getting food from our farm • Plans for Alternative Rites of Passage on hold due to ban on large meetings
  13. 13. Challenges to come? • Will court cases and police activity continue if COVID increases? • Without community outreach will FGM resurface? • If economic conditions deteriorate will girls be married off? • Will we be able to feed the girls we are protecting? • ????
  14. 14. Rhobi Samwelly mndlutume@gmail.com @HopeForGirlsTZ

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