Most of the researches have chronicled female genital mutilation (FGM) as predominant culture in Tanzania.
The culture has been passed down from generations; while mainly used as the rite passage of girls to adulthood.
Deliberate crusades are laid down to grind the vice to a halt inside and outside the country.
Tanzania is one of the signatories of the international conventions, protocols, charters and laws addressing all violence against women and children (VAWC).
Besides all the efforts taken by the country, FGM is still unrelieved and observed in many areas.
In some way between, perhaps these activists, security forces and Government, they were not engrossed in or almost forgot to change people’s mindset toward harmful practice of FGM.
To instigate a successful behavioral and attitude change, you need to educate people and thus the work of Restless Development, an organization which advocates for mass awareness particularly on the effects of female genital mutilation in line with laws that observe issues of violence including FGM.
Senior officer of Tutimize Ahadi project, coordinated by the organization, Sima Bateyunga, says; female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
She says, reasons for FGM could be classified into two groups; namely social and economic factors.
“Starting with social factors, it is more of culture belongingness of the particular area, whereby most of societies that constantly practice FGM are in belief that, circumcised girls will be held in great respect. Also, girls or women who undergo FGM are most favorite choices to various suitors within society regarding the fact that some of the men treasure the pride of having a circumcised bride,” she said.
She adds that, “those societies also believe that FGM automatically reduce female’s sexual pleasure and keeps her away from disease. FGM in those societies, is prestigious rite of passage commonly for young girls to womanhood.
When comes to economic factors, she says, societies that practice FGM view that, the only way to significantly earn income to their families is to allow their circumcised daughters get married, as it is believed, the bride price for circumcised girl is at rare high compared to uncircumcised one.
If that is not enough, other members of the family receive some of the prizes at the ceremony. Traditional cutters (Ngariba) also run their daily lives through FGM and “ngariba” with successful and safe cutting records, earn societies’ preference and prestige,” she elaborated.
Effects of FGM
Bateyunga says, FGM is highly condemned act as it infringes on girls’ welfare. As among the common violence against girls child; it has several effects on girls.
A circumcised girl is at high risk of losing her life because of bleeding too much blood from the wounded genitalia, a reduced libido that abstains woman from enjoying the intercourse and feeling of distress.
FGM is also the key cause of maternal deaths, infections, fistula, and premature babies.
The role of Restless Development in addressing FGM
Bateyunga says that, Restless Development runs a designated project dubbed “Tutimize Ahadi” aimed at following up on promises of Government on reproductive health and gender-based violence (GBV) issues, where, FGM according to WHO, is related to reproductive health and gender-based violence (GBV).
“Circumcised girls are always married soon after the initiation ceremony and it is widely known that, when a girl is married at tender age is surely deprived of an opportunity to continue with her studies, and she may even be at risk of dying during delivery considering her premature reproductive organs,” she explained.
She continues that, the greatest task rested with the project is to educate community about effects of FGM.
“Also, majority of uneducated women are subject of this brutal act and are desolate that they can’t contribute anything in the economy, and therefore they continue live poorly and plagued. Situated on that, FGM embodies both parts; reproductive health and gender-based violence (GBV).
Situation on the ground
According to the Demographic Health Survey 2015/16, shows that, 10 percent of women aging between 15-49 undergo FGM, whereby out of those, 35 percent have undergone FGM before the age of one-year.
Also, FGM has been common in the rural areas with 13 percent and urban takes only 5 percent.
She says that, “We are super proud of how Government has shown huge support and we have taken part several times in the local government meeting.”
She further elaborates, Restless Development has offices in Iringa, Dodoma, Ruvuma and Dar es Salaam while optimizes on its wide spectrum of media outlets to spread awareness.
Marking International day of Zero Tolerance to FGM
She says, while the world observes an international day of zero tolerance to FGM, Restless decides to engage in mass awareness pertaining to effects of GBV. Also, people are ought to report any case of FGM to appropriate organs, as well as enlighten mass over laws that observe issues of violence and penalties to lawbreakers.”
Areas of improvement
According to Bateyunga, in rural areas where FGM is predominant, are in dire need of instant reinforcement as education is not properly shared, contrary to urban where there are plenty of tele communication and multimedia platforms such as radio, newspaper, television, smartphones and internet etc. that render educational information.
Bateyunga says, FGM is a crystal clear deprivation of one’s right and that is justified through death toll associated with the act in line with other effects.
“Societies should shun the act as is of no account to country’s development to current and future generations. Also, we call on people’s willingness to report on any occurrence of the act if for respective organs to take charges against perpetrators,” she winded up with concise advice.