Last week, Mohabe Mwita Marwa Simangwe, a cutter from Matare village dropped her tools at the HGWT safe house and swore not to cut any more girls in the Serengeti district.
This adds to the already long list of cutters that have been impacted by Rhobi Samwelly’s mission. In 2015, Christina, a circumciser who had previously cut girls in the local village of Kebanchabancha, witnessed an anti FGM road show Rhobi organised in her village. Christina was so deeply affected and moved by the road show it led her to publicly denounce FGM and destroy her tools for good. This cost her dearly – she lost her source of income, her husband divorced her and she had to move away from the village due to the pressure of people trying to persuade her to change her mind. Nonetheless, the strong support network she found in the HGWT safe house left her undeterred. Since then, Christina has become a peer educator persuading other circumcisers to follow her lead.
The tide is turning and HGWT has been a pioneer at the community level. Rhobi Samwelly and her team understand the complexity of FGM and it’s deep connection with the local cow based economy. They have held those who refuse to follow the anti-FGM laws accountable whilst also creating sustainable solutions to wipe out FGM.
However, the safe house faces challenges. Now it is known as a place of refuge, local police often bring people here who have nowhere else to go, like victims of rape and domestic abuse. Most pressing of all issues, is the need for a car so that girls in villages can be reached.
‘In the Name of Your Daughter’ continues to make a lasting impact in the global mission against female genital mutilation. Directed by Canadian Giselle Portenier, the documentary is centred around Rhobi Samwelly’s active fight against FGM in rural Tanzania. Since its premiere at the Copenhagen Film Festival, the movie has gone on to garner rave reviews from critics and high ranking officials alike. Canadian Senator Jim Munson praised the documentary for its sensitive portrayal adding that “this may be a difficult subject for some, but this an issue that must be addressed over and over again. FGM is happening in Tanzania, it is happening around the world and it is happening in Canada”.
Last week saw “In the Name of Your Daughter” screened in front of potentially it’s most important critics yet. With the help of the Canadian government and UNFPA Tanzania, the documentary has been showing in front of hundreds of students in rural Tanzania. To date, there has been a screening at Magereza Primary school and Matongo Primary school in the Butiama District, with plans for screenings in other schools around the region. It is hoped these screenings will not only inform at-risk girls of the options available to them but also illuminate young boys perspective on women. As “In the Name of Your Daughter” so beautifully portrays, to truly end FGM there has to be a concerted effort from a multitude of actors representing both genders, at both the community and international level.
On October 30th, Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania conducted an anti-FGM training session to Butiama District officials and partners working against FGM in Butiama District.
The training was supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) and was officially opened by Mara Regional commissioner Mr Adam Malima. Mr Malima insisted that all partners and government leaders come together to work in collaboration against FGM.
Through UNFPA, we managed to introduce Ushahidi and distribute posters with anti-FGM messages and phone numbers for reporting any FGM and GBV cases from villages.
Since September, Rhobi Samwelly has been on a global anti-FGM mission. Her journey commenced in New York, where she spoke passionately in front of a high-level UN Panel, recounting her harrowing FGM experience as a teenager. From then, she travelled to London to join director Giselle Portenier for the UK premiere of In The Name of Your Daughter. The documentary is centered around Rhobi’s active fight against FGM in rural Tanzania. The latest leg of her advocacy mission drew her to Ottawa.
On October 23rd, Rhobi, along with Giselle Portenier were welcomed by Senator Jim Munson on the floor of the Senate of Canada. Proclaiming Rhobi as a “human right hero” and a “shining light”, Senator Jim Munson praised the documentary for its sensitive portrayal. “I am still trying to catch my breath after watching – In The Name of Your Daughter” Mr Munson said. “This may be a difficult subject for some, but this an issue that must be addressed over and over again. FGM is happening in Tanzania, it is happening around the world and it is happening in Canada” he continued.
Senator Jim Munson continued by underscoring Rhobi’s outstanding work with Mugumu Safe House before asking Canadian leaders to consider tracking cases of FGM domestically (transcript found below).
Rhobi dedicated the rest of her visit to reaching as many people as possible with her anti-FGM message and promoting In the Name of Your Daughter. This entailed spreading the word by radio and addressing the International Parliamentarians Conference with Canadian MP Carolyn Bennett. While Rhobi’s advocacy has originated in Tanzania, her global journey has shown that FGM is a mission that resonates deeply with everyone, irrespective of race, country and religion.
The following is the official transcript of Senator Jim Munson’s accolade for Rhobi Samwelly on the floor of the Senate of Canada, 23rd October 2018:
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Rhobi Samwelly, Giselle Portenier and Liz Smith. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Munson.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, there is a human rights hero in our midst. Rhobi Samwelly from Tanzania is saving lives, girls’ lives. I am still trying to catch my breath after watching a compelling documentary on Sunday night here in Ottawa, a documentary called In The Name of Your Daughter, produced and directed by Canadian Giselle Portenier.
This may be a difficult subject for some, but this an issue that must be addressed over and over again. FGM, or female genital mutilation, is happening in Tanzania, it is happening around the world and it is happening in Canada.
Today’s story is about rural Tanzania where, despite the tragic circumstances, there is hope and courage.
Honourable senators, I am on my feet today to talk about a shining light. That shining light is Rhobi Samwelly.
Rhobi, through her advocacy and her Mugumu Safe House, is helping women and girls who have been victims or who are fleeing potential victimization.
Senators, my colleagues Senator Ataullahjan and Senator Jaffer have spoken passionately in this place about this illegal practice. We know what a horrific procedure this is: it puts lives and health of young girls at risk; girls have died.
In the documentary I saw on Sunday, In the Name of Your Daughter, there is the story of young Rosie Makore who, at 11 years old, has to decide to submit to cutting and child marriage or run away from everything and everyone she knows.
That is why the work of Rhobi’s safe house is so important. It gives girls a place of peace, a place of compassion and a place where they are accepted.
It is heartbreaking in this film to see young children run down a country road to a safe house. The child has found out that she will be next in a traditional cutting ceremony. At the safe house, these girls — and there are hundreds of them — gradually gain confidence and independence. The main goal is to stop FGM being forced upon girls and women.
Tomorrow is world UN Day, a day for Canada to reflect on its international roles, commitments and obligations. The United Kingdom has started to track cases of FGM, which is a step I think Canada should take to help women living with the effects, both physical and psychological.
These are vulnerable citizens, these young girls of the world. Let’s help the victims of FGM and help stop the practice from happening anywhere ever again.
I salute Rhobi Samwelly. She is here with us today. She’s on her way back to rural Tanzania to do her work. Cutting season is an open season now in that country and in other countries of the world.
As you head back to your country today, Madam, we in the Senate of Canada want you to know you are not alone in this battle for the rights of the child.
To Giselle Portenier, the Canadian director and producer of this incredible documentary, I want to thank you on behalf of the senators for shining your light.
This documentary, In The Name of Your Daughter, received rave reviews in London, England recently; it should be an Academy Award-winning documentary. This is about little girls, honourable senators; we must do more.
In the name of all senators, thanks to both of you for bringing a shining light.