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:

  • Form four girls took part in a discussion about human resources
  • 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.
  • 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:

  • Reproductive health and the menstrual cycle
  • Gender, the effects of gender based violence (GBV) and female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • 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.

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.