Anti- FGM, child marriage campaigns to save 10,000 children

AN ambitious programme that seeks to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in three districts is expected to reach out to about 10,000 children who are at risk of undergoing FGM or subjected to early marriage.

The districts are Tarime in Mara, Mpwapwa in Dodoma and Ilala in Dar es Salaam. Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF), an non governmental organization is already implementing the programme under the support of several partners.

The partners are Swedish Embassy in Tanzania, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Forward UK. Forward UK has been supporting anti- FGM and child marriage campaigns in Tarime district through CDF for many years now.

CDF Executive Director Mr Koshuma Mtengeti says the current programme targeting 10,000 children is expected to be implemented until 2020.

“We want to see children who are resilient, confident and capable of making independent decisions, “ Mr Koshuma told the ‘Daily News’ in Tarime recently.

Mr Koshuma was in Tarime together with his team on a working mission that seeks to enhance anti- FGM and child marriage campaigns in the area.

The NGO, he said is committed to a special mission aiming at saving young girls who are at risk of cutting short their life goals due to FGM, child marriage or teenage pregnancies in the three districts.

In Mara region, Tarime district remains one of the FGM notorious zones despite on- going efforts by the government, local and international organizations to stop the harmful practice.

In 2016 more than 800 girls were reportedly mutilated in Tarime district alone. The number could be high than that, according to local NGO’s carrying out anti- FGM campaigns in the district.

Once a girl is married in Mara region a dowry is given to her parents in a form of cows. Having large number of cows is also still considered as a assign of wealth among the societies in the region.

To make the matter worse, once a girl is mutilated she feels grown up enough to get married and gives little attention to education matters . CDF has conducted remarkable interventions that had helped to save significant number of girls from undergoing FGM in recent years.

The interventions involved formation of anti- FGM and child marriages school and out of school clubs, carrying out public awareness campaigns against FGM, child marriage and teenage pregnancies.

The NGO has also been engaging traditional, faith and local leaders so that they can participate in the campaigns. As a results some traditional leaders who in the past could not talk anything against FGM are now attending anti-FGM meetings with some female circumcisers locally known as Ngariba stopping the work.

The NGO, Mr Koshuma said is now directing its efforts on a series of capacity building trainings targeting girls who are at risk so that they can be able to say no to FGM child marriages in the three districts.

The capacity building initiative will go hand in hand with making the target girls understand where to get quick assistance whenever they feel to be at high risk. “So far the children are happy with our programme what they need is assistance whenever they need arises”, he added.

Therefore, Mr Koshuma underscored the importance of opening one stop centres that will be offering immediate services to Gender Based Violence (GBV) victims.

Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children has assured already directed formation of the one stop centres across the country as part of the measures taken by the government to curb GBV.

The police force has also established several hundreds of women and children gender desks to deal with GBV acts in the country.

The idea of one stop centres will make it possible for GBV victims to access quick a services from government departments such as police force, social welfare, community development at one point.

“One stop centre is important because a victim of GBV can get all necessary services without moving from one place. We believe a one stop centre will be opened in Mara region soon”, the CDF Executive Director said.

He also asked district council councils to start having budgets that will help to eliminate violence against children and women.

Such budget allocation plus establishment of one stop centres, are imperative in realiz ing 2017-2022 National Action for Ending Violence against Women and Children, he noted.

Furthermore, Mr Kohuma said it is important for district council executive directors (DEDs) to start chairing violence against women and children committees.

“If the DEDs will be the chairpersons of the violence against women and children committees, all heads of departments will also be taking part and the work will be easier “, he pointed out.

The Tanzanian NGO (CDF) has been cooperating with government to combat child marriage, FGM, and teenage pregnancies in Tarime district for several years.

The campaign is reportedly bearing fruit, thanks to all partners supporting the initiative through the NGO.

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Author: MUGINI JACOB in Tarime

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