10 December 2013

Fighting against FGM and for Human Rights in Tanzania

Blog by Louise Robertson.

On Human Rights Day we would like to share the story of Edna (name changed) from Moshi in Tanzania. We met Edna in August 2013 while carrying our research for our country profile on FGM in Tanzania. She came from a village and family where female genital mutilation (FGM) is routinely carried out on girls and young women. FGM is a harmful traditional practice involving the cutting and/or removal of external female genitals. It not only causes extreme pain, bleeding, shock and even death at the time it is performed but results in lifelong serious consequences for survivors of this brutal practice. FGM also causes complications during childbirth and contributes to increase rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Edna’s story begins with her marriage. “One day, after I got married, my grandmother who I am named after and who was very close to me, called me in private and told me “my grandchild, you are supposed to be cut”. I did not understand and so I asked her, what do you mean when you speak of getting cut? She replied in Chagga language “MDINWE” (to be mutilated). In order to avoid further arguments with her, I simply replied yes. However I did not want to be cut and so I asked my husband to move from our village to Moshi town centre. I did not go back home in our village to fulfill the requirements of FGM tradition. Nowadays, I have three children with my husband and we have a happy family.

“One day I happened to go back in our village to visit my parents. My grandmother gazed at me and said, “Remember, you bear the seal of my name. I am going to curse you because you refused to be cut”. I replied that I am not going to be cut and above all, the FGM tradition is nowadays outdated. She screamed at me “Hold your tongue! You shall not talk to me in that way”.  Out of respect to my parents, I did not engage in further arguments with her and returned to Moshi town. Years have passed now, yet nothing bad has happened in my marriage and I am content with my family life.”

With the support of her husband Edna was spared from FGM but she has had to bear separation from her family and has seen family members and friends suffer as a result of FGM. She now advocates against the practice and has this message to others, “I advise my fellow Chagga women to spare their daughters from FGM practice. Nothing shall happen to their daughters. Let all Chagga women nurture and empower their daughters to oppose FGM.”

FGM is a severe form of violence against women and girls and a clear violation of their human rights. Globally over 140 million women and girls have undergone FGM and a further 3 million are at risk. So this Human Rights Day let’s all pledge to do something to help end FGM worldwide. You can join a campaign, sign the UK petition, write to your member of parliament, volunteer to help in communities where FGM takes place, join a local support group or bakes cakes to fundraise for the campaign. There many ways to help and if we all do something it will make a difference and save future generations from FGM.

It is through educating, supporting and empowering women such as Edna that FGM will end in Africa and worldwide. 28 Too Many is undertaking research and compiling country profile for each of the 28 countries in Africa where FGM is practised to inform and enable those working locally to eradicate the practice. Our vision is to have a world where every woman is safe, healthy and lives free from female genital mutilation.

If you would like to help women like Edna and protect girls and women from FGM please support our work to end FGM. You can donate to fund our research and projects, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Thank you.