Waache Wasome: Light at the end of the tunnel for girls - 2
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  • World Education Inc comes with interventions in Mara and Karatu
  • Traditional and religious ready to cooperate for girls’ education

IN a bid to encourage and improve education for girls, various strategies have been applied by the government, non-governmental organization and international organisations.

Under Waache wasome, which is a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by World Education Inc. (WEI) in collaboration with Local Government Authorities (LGA) and other technical partners in Tanzania.

The five-year project whose implementation has started in Karatu district in Arusha region is set to see other districts involved, to wit, Musoma Municipal Council, Musoma District Council and Tarime district of Mara region.

WEI Chief of Party and Tanzania Country Director, Ms Lilian Badi says the project’s goals are to improve retention and progression of adolescent girls in secondary school.

Ms Badi unveils others as to improve access to alternative education pathways for adolescent girls who have dropped out of school and influence positive perceptions about value of educating girls.

She says that primary beneficiaries are girls aged 13-19 years who are enrolled in secondary school and are at risk of dropping out of school or have already dropped.

Secondary beneficiaries, according to the chief of party, are boys and girls enrolled in government secondary school; parents, caregivers and families of adolescent girls as well as teachers and school administrators.

She says the project is imperative because although Tanzania has succeeded in achieving gender parity in primary education enrollment, girls are disadvantaged at the secondary school level.

“Girls lack successful role models and trusted adult mentors to support and encourage them, many girls do not develop career goals and fail to develop aspirational attitudes. Many families are not willing to invest equally in girls and boys education.

“Sexual harassment and violence in school create an untenable atmosphere for girls. Three out of every 10 Tanzanian females aged 13-14 were victims of sexual violence and almost one in four reported an incident that occurred in school grounds while discriminatory attitudes and behaviors set the stage for girls to drop out of school,” she says.

Expectations are to reach out to 918,916 girls that are targeted for coverage in 13,400 families from 268 villages and streets in 67 schools.

WEI supported the President’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) to develop and disseminate Most Vulnerable Children (MVC) care and support guidelines under National Policy Guide for Provision of Services to MVC in LGAs and cooperates with the government in line with its policies.

The last mentioned goal, which is, influencing positive perceptions about value of educating girls, has been at odds with some communities in targeted areas for a while now, due to outdated and illegal traditions.

Which are those? They are not far to fetch, and members of the same communities are available for comment. Mr Mwita Nyasibira is Secretary General to Tarime Traditional Leaders of 13 Kurya Tribes that have for so long pressed to maintain customs and traditions that are outdated and have been acting as barriers to girls’ education such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – meaning an initiation to girl child ready to engage in sexual activities, bear children and possible child marriage, ending up any dreams of further education, be it at primary or secondary level.

Speaking at Nkongote village, Kitare ward in Inchage division of Tarime district, Mr Nyasibira says they have been with practices that constrain girl child from getting education but of late some officials, including those from the government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other activists have tried to engage with traditional leaders to see equal opportunities for girls and boys in getting quality education.

The stage means end of the road for girls’ education but also probable start of a hard road in life, coupled with situations such as HIV/AIDS and diseases such as fistula. He says that given the importance of the ceremony, even some societies that are thinking of doing away with the cut opt to take the girls powder them with flour on face as a sign that they are grown-ups.

Mr Nyasibira says that since 2014 officials from some NGOs have been arriving in the region, specifically in Tarime district and speak to representatives of traditional leaders so as to raise awareness and build their capacities on importance of education to girls.

However, he says that most organizations end up in town halls instead of going down to division, ward, village and hamlet levels. “They have been talking to us but in town; they call the leaders and speak to us on issues of stopping girl circumcision.

The problem is it is difficult to achieve that if they work in that line. When we come back to the villages and hamlets and tell the people in our communities, they ask us; ‘who are those people? Where are they from? Why do not they come here and speak to us?’ What do we tell them in such circumstances? It is difficult to convince all of them but we try,” he says. He says what is needed now is awareness among the communities.

He says it is pertinent that the Government and NGOs targeting education for girls should work with traditional and religious leaders. He says the public has to be educated on how to influence positive perceptions about the value of educating girls Mr Mikwabe Makabe is the Vice Chairman of Tarime Traditional Leaders of 13 Kurya Tribes who says they are ready to come and work with the government to chart way forward to accommodate girls in equal levels of education provision as the boys.

He says he feels that Tarime is geared to change for the better. A Tarime youth representative to the Traditional Leaders of the 13 Clans of Tarime district, Mr Chacha Mwita Matinde says he knows well of the customs and traditions but there are some that are outdated.

He says now he is part of those raising awareness in villages and the public is eager to be reached out to. He says quality education would help girls get employment and have good families.

Rev Thobias Oluoch from Tarime Inter-faith Committee says it is high time now societies are supported to end Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and barriers of education to girls so that women and children anguishes remain history.

He is always deeply touched as women and children flock to his church after being subjected to violence by men. He wants social welfare and development officers do more on that front.

Tarime District Sheikh, Mr Abdulhakim Sudi says awareness on issues of education and negative effects of GBV is yet to reach most of the populations in Mara region and needs be spread at village levels if barriers of development to girl children are to be brought to an end. He wants government officials to be more proactive. His opinion is echoed by the Seventh Day Adventist Pastor in the district, Godfrey Samwel.

African Inland Church (AIC) Tarime Pastor, Mr Joseph Magwija is of the opinion that traditional leaders have planted enormous fear among the populations to the extent that even police and other government officers fear them and do not dare touch them. Ms Maclina Robinson (49) is one of former women circumcisers at Mwema ward in Sirari but has since stopped it.

She was initiated to the practice by traditional leaders after what she and her husband, Mr John Nyangondi refer to as a way to please the ‘gods’ and forefathers who have passed on long ago.

The woman was said to get ill and could not get cure in hospitals. She recalls some of ordeals for circumcised girls as razor blades being left in after circumcision, blood pilling in the wounds for long time, girls contracting infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS.

She says she did not want to engage in such work but had to in accordance with the traditions but also to save herself from illnesses. Ms Robinson says after she resigned from the practice she was sent to Rubondo Vocational Education Training Authority (Veta) with other women where they trained in swing and knitting.

She has since gone back to Godly ways and she now gets her family’s daily bread from a group work, where they have four sewing and knitting machines. Ms Paulina Makanja Sadiki (over 80 years old) is another former famous women circumciser who says she stopped because of government’s intervention.

She does not see anything bad with FGM, saying she enjoyed subjecting girls to that, as she got her pay, did not see girls crying during the operations and now she does not have work, hence no earnings. She would be glad to get an alternative job.

A Roman Catholic Church catechist at Mboge Parish, Mwema ward in Sirari division that borders Kenya, Mr Martin Mwita says it is bad to take FGM as initiation of girls to adulthood. He says the Government and NGOs have to work with religious and traditional leaders to end all outdated traditions and have girls enrolled and retained in schools.

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