Fighting Female Genital Mutilation During COVID-19 in Tanzania
Female Genital Mutilation
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.
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
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
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.
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
We deliver a compelling
message on the dangers of
FGM and girls’ rights.
Local FGM survivor and Hope
Director Rhobi Samwelly
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.
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. )
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
Maps continue to be extremely
useful when rescuing girls by
us and the police.
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
Digital Champions are
particularly important now
when getting to villages is
more challenging for us.
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.
Particular challenges during COVID - now
• Increased number of girls due to
• Difficulty in quarantining girls who
may have been infected in very
• 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
Challenges to come?
• Will court cases and police activity
continue if COVID increases?
• Without community outreach will
• If economic conditions deteriorate will
girls be married off?
• Will we be able to feed the girls we