February 6th, 2019 marks the day of zero tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This day brings mixed feelings among activists because of the highly-publicised FGM conviction in the UK, which is the first of its kind. The sense of achievement has been diluted by sadness as yet another girl has been cut and mutilated at a tender age of 3!
According to the United Nations, globally over 200 million girls and women have been affected by FGM, a practice that has often been branded as religious or cultural with the belief that this act will prepare girls for marriage. However, the practice of FGM must be seen as what it is – an attack on women. There is no medical basis for this procedure and the sad reality is that these practices are carried out in establishments and often using equipment not fit for purpose leading to severe physical and mental trauma in later life.
FGM is predominately practised in Africa, the practice has also become widespread in countries across Europe including the UK. Incidentally, Ethiopia and Tanzania where CiC implements projects young girls are also at risk. The prevalence of FGM in Tanzania is at 10%, much lower than Ethiopia’s rate of 65% but there is still work to be done as the law that criminalises the practice, -Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA) of 1998 has yet to eradicate the practice. Similarly, the practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but it is only now, in 2019 that there has been a conviction.
Together with development partners and Civil Society Organisations, the government of Tanzania remains vigilant by putting in place and regularly updating plans and strategies aimed at eradicating gender-based violence. Recently, eleven ministries came together to launch the five-year National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children in Tanzania (NPA-VAWC) 2017/8-2021/2 with 8 thematic areas, one of which specifically addressing harmful traditional practices in the society such as FGM.
The NPA-VAWC emphasizes the actions needed for both preventing and responding to violence. Partners have joined forces through innovations such as ‘safe houses’ which have provided a much-needed shelter for girls at risk of being cut, early marriage and therefore dropping out of school. The latest FGM advocacy tool circulating internationally is a film shot in Tanzania, by an award-winning activist titled In the name of your daughter that is being screened globally on February 6, 2019
As an active government partner, CiCTZ contributes to NPA-VAWC implementation by integrating safeguarding policies in the country programme. Particularly through support to school committees and child protection committee, CiCTZ promotes child protection in the communities we are working in.
Together we can make a difference, raise awareness, stop harmful traditional practices and eliminate FGM. We believe that all children deserve the right to grow up and develop in a safe environment free from harm and we strive to make that happen.
Written by Chiku Lweno