“I saw two men who came to my uncle’s house carrying crates of soda and cows. There was an air of festivities but I did not know what we were celebrating... My mother told me that the men had brought my dowry” Naseko (Manyara)
“...They had planned to cut me and marry me off the very next day, the second week after my return from school. Can you imagine?!” Nanyori (Arusha)
“Sometimes they would bring you a pregnant woman [to cut] and it became very difficult for her during birth, because the scar would not have healed and the skin doesn’t stretch. Sometimes both died or either one of them died. It was a great loss. And there is also a lot of pain for the girls too,” an Ex-cutter (Arusha)
“I was surrounded by a group of masked men who seized me and started carrying me away. I screamed for my mother to help me but she didn’t do anything. I fought them so hard and was screaming for help but no one came to help me” Sharon, survivor (Mara)
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM) in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. (WHO)
Globally each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 23 girls every minute. Nearly 1 every 2 seconds. (Girls Not Brides)
Tanzania is not spared from either plights.
Tanzania criminalized the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting in 1998. There have been a lot of individual and coordinated efforts to end the practice in the country and across the borders. Since 1998 the prevalence of the cutting has decreased from 18 percent to 10 percent. Although there has been significant progress over the last 20 years, FGM is still more apparent in some of the regions across the country: Manyara (58%), Dodoma (47%), Arusha (41%) Mara (32%) and Singida (31%).
Why should such a harmful and seemingly unnecessary practice still prevail in the 21st century, even after 20 years of being outlawed? Why would families risk the lives of those they love, to undergo a practice that will bring lifetime repercussions?
With these basic questions and many more, a team of five young Tanzanian influencers went to the five regions with the highest prevalence to find out. They met and spoke to a number of people, including girls who have escaped and those that have survived FGM and child marriage. They met with cutters who had laid down their knives and are now advocating to end FGM. They also spoke to parents, community leaders and elders who both oppose and support the practice.
The struggle to eliminate female genital mutilation and child marriage has not been easy, and there are a myriad facets, especially where female genital mutilation (FGM) is concerned. It remains apparent that female genital mutilation affects families in many different ways.
“On my wedding night, it was very difficult. I didn’t really have any desire for my husband and it was quite painful for me…it’s difficult to enjoy my marriage, on that front” – Anna (Singida)
“I wanted to be with her sexually after we got married. On our wedding day I was excited that I’m finally going to be with my wife…but it did not go as I planned. I felt like I had forced her, I felt disappointed and guilty.” – Sam (Anna’s husband, Singida)
In these 16 Days of activism against gender based violence it is only befitting that we share here the voices from the five regions, as captured by the five influencers. We hope that these voices will amplify the efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Today we will conclude the first of the 16 articles by the first question the influencers addressed on embarking their journeys: What is FGM?
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual of altering the female genitalia, for non-medical reasons. It includes removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans; removal of the inner labia; and removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva.