20 November 2012

How are we working together in the fight against FGM? Tareto Maa meets 28 Too Many: a personal journey.

Guest blog by Helen Marshall, Tareto Maa.

I don’t remember exactly when I first became concerned about the subject of FGM but it was one of those moments when something so hard hits you, you can’t get it out of your mind. Learning about a girl being cut and left in pain, sometimes to bleed and die was something so shocking to me that it certainly had no place in today’s world.

Back in the 1990’s, no-one appeared then to mention the subject of FGM in the media. Now, at least the practice is getting the attention it deserves. The subject came up from time to time for me, pricking my conscience. I started to read about it and became even more horrified. I had always been interested in women’s health and being a nurse was passionate about the rights to health, and freedom from pain and suffering.

I began to read widely around the subject of FGM, human rights, poverty and maternal issues. By then I had started a blog and was starting to write about the subject. However, writing was not enough for me, I needed to do more. I started to run and wanted to race for FGM to raise some awareness and money. That’s when I discovered Tareto Maa, then also on a blog site. I said:

“This is it. This is what I have been waiting for,”

Now, in November, 2012, both my husband and I work for Tareto Maa, an NGO in Kenya dedicated in helping girls fleeing FGM and early enforced marriage.  At first, we made contact by e-mail and then seeing for the first time the pictures of the girls, sent from a European supporter, this made the whole subject more real and personal. A touch paper was lit and there was no way it was ever going to be put out. At that time, Tareto Maa was sheltering a few girls in people’s own homes. From 2010, when we first became involved, we did not realise then just how quickly it would grow.

As a result of this success, I believe that any project can become successful with only a few people at first, with co-ordinated efforts, total commitment, hard work and a vision. Very quickly the building blocks were placed one after another, not just by way of a permanent refuge, now sheltering 96 girls but with a channel of supporting infrastructure to spread the message and to help fund the programme.

This is where the support via the internet can be so successful in helping small projects grow in rural Africa, where there is limited access to electricity or computers, yet where the world can soon learn about Tareto Maa. For us, through organisations and other social media platforms such as Betteplace, Global Giving, Kiva, Facebook, twitter and now with www.tareto-maa.org, more people are learning about Tareto Maa and supporting us. We now have 61 out of the 96 girls with a personal sponsor for their educational needs and this is a part of our forthcoming Christmas campaign to find sponsors for the remaining girls.

So this brings us to the present and a meeting with 28 Too Many inLondon. Both connected with a common purpose, a common thread of passion, drive and vision to eradicate the practice of FGM. Tareto Maa was delighted to meet Ann-Marie and Louise to discuss and share ideas.

28 Too Many and Tareto Maa’s work both share a valuable place in the world of FGM. For 28 Too Many, they identified a need to conduct research to know what resources are placed inAfricaand who is doing what to facilitate best practice. Tareto Maa is a grass-roots initiative aided by growing worldwide support.  At present, not only are we sheltering and sending girls to school but this December a campaign for an abandonment of the practice is the next crucial step within the local community.

So, thank you to 28 Too Many for meeting us. We are going to stay in contact, and are keen to hear about your developments and will certainly keep you abreast with what is happening in the village of Kilgoris,Kenya in the work to abandon FGM. We  look forward to joining forces with you on this.