Countering child marriage and FGM in Tanzania
Child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are a violation of girls’ human rights and act as root causes for discrimination and violence against girls. Despite global and national efforts to turn the tide on these harmful practices, Tanzania has a national child marriage prevalence of 37%, one of the highest in the world. On average almost two out of five girls will be married before their 18th birthday. Early marriage has a significant impact on girls’ health, well-being and personal development, excluding them from education - every year more than 8,000 girls in Tanzania drop out from school due to pregnancy and child marriage - denying them of their right to live a prosperous and healthy life. The practice particularly affects girls who are the least educated, poorest and living in rural areas.
This project is focusing on high risk communities in Tanzania and is implemented by Plan International. It aims to reduce the incidence of harmful practices in Mara and Geita Region by empowering young girls and strengthening child protection.
When they introduced the idea of abolishing FGM I was totally confused. At the beginning it was difficult to cope with the situation because I was thinking on how I can survive. But through Plan International and Child Dignity Forum, engagement with the District Government led to support in entrepreneurship and vocational training for incisors.
Going through FGM and then becoming a peer educator, Ester's story
Ester is one of girls who went through FGM and other taboos. But now she is one of peer educators. The following is her story. "I was told by my parents that I should go through FGM to become a mature woman. What I knew and thinking of, was a full of clothes in a new bag that I used to see girls receive from their parents and other relative during the ceremony" said Ester. "With full of excitements I agreed that. BUT when the day came and already cut; oh God I was like half dead. I cried a lot, when I saw blood between my legs. That is how happened to me.
Once a girl is circumcised; the community assumes that she is ready for marriage even if she is under 18. Therefore saving them from FGM means saving them from child marriage and supports them to achieve their educational dreams.
I want to say that FGM is a slow poison killer. Peoples now understand the effect of FGM as we go around educating them. We have a group of more than 15 members around the village where we used to meet once per week. However we regularly meet for planning the sessions as peer educators to educate our community the effect of FGM. It is a tough job but slowly we are getting there. Already number of groups of young women has been empowered and they are now running small business activities like soap and batik making. Also they formed Village Saving & Loan Association (VSLA) where they get to save money and later on they can take loan depend on the saving have for different business and uses." She added.
The project has reached out to more than 4,500 people in the region.