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Girls who escaped FGM reunite with their families after two years

FIVE girls who were sheltered at Hope for Girls and Women Tanz ania (HGWT) centre in Serengeti District for two years, after escaping from the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) ritual have finally rejoined their families.

Besides surviving from undergoing FGM, the young girls have successful attended a special training on vocational and entrepreneurship provided with the support of HGWT.

HGWT is a non- governmental organisation (NGO) that fights FGM, child marriages and other Gender Based Violence (GBV) acts in Serengeti, Butiama and other parts of Mara Region. The NGO hosted a graduation ceremony for the girls in Mugumu on Friday last week.

“We received these girls as victims of FGM at our centre but today they are graduates of vocational and entrepreneurship training “, Ms Rhobi Samwelly, the Director of HGWT said. The NGO donated sewing to each of the five girls during the same occasion.

The historical event was witnessed by parents of the girls and representatives from organiz ation working hard to address issues affecting girl child in the region. Ms Rhobi who is also the founder of the HGWT added: “Parents of these girls have reassured us that they are ready to receive their children back and they will be safe”.

The girls thanked Ms Rhobi for the training and for helping to save them from undergoing FGM promising to sustain the campaigns against FGM and other GBV acts in their home villages.

“I am standing in front of you stakeholders to thank you because I was also supposed to be mutilated but that did not happen and I want to thank our mother (Rhobi) so much”, one of the girls identified as Grace Marwa said on this occasion.

The young girl who spoke on behalf of her colleagues added: “We will stand firm to say no to FGM and we will be educating our parents, relatives and the communities on the effects of FGM.” They also promised to utiliz e the sewing machines and the training by becoming economically independent instead of continue to rely on their parents.

The NGO awarded two different certificates to each of the girls. One certificate was for the vocational and entrepreneurship training and the additional one for anti-FGM ambassadors. “We expect that these girls will be our ambassadors by helping many other girls and women in their areas “, said Ms Rhobi.

Parents of the girls were also excited to see their daughters in a different advanced environment despite that they had earlier perhaps wished to see them undergoing FGM.

“We are grateful for all these teachers at Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania .We did not expect that our children could have attained the development we are seeing today”, Ms Leticia Thobias, one of the parents said.

Serengeti District Commissioner (DC), Mr Nurdin Babu witnessed the event which was also attended by parents of the girls and other organiz ations working hard to end FGM and child marriages in Serengeti district. Mr Babu congratulated Ms Rhobi for her continued efforts meant to stop protect young girls from being subjected to FGM and early marriage.

“You are using the funds that you receive very wisely and you have done many big things to protect children from FGM”, the Serengeti DC said on parts of his remarks as the guest of honour during the event. Mr Babu added:” I also want to congratulate these girls for attending the training and it is good to see the HGWT giving you the sewing machines today. Congratulations.”

He said that the government in Serengeti district will continue to work together with the NGO to intensify anti-FGM battle in the area. Hope for Girls and Women NGO also runs two FGM rescue centers that saved about 400 girls from undergoing FGM between 2017 and 2018, thanks to all partners supporting the initiative.

The partners include Canadian Embassy, UNFPA, Grumeti Reserves, Four Seasons and the UK based-Tanz ania Development Trust. The centres shelter and take care of girls fleeing forced FGM acts during FGM seasons. The centres are Butiama Safe House and Hope Mugumu Safe House. The NGO was founded in 2017 by Ms Rhobi.

Ms Rhobi has been fighting FGM in Mara Region for many years even before she founded the NGO. In April this year, Rhobi was also declared the overall winner for 2019 Clouds TV Malkia wa Nguvu honorary award during another colourful event held in Dar es salaam following her anti- FGM’s fruitful campaigns.

Rhobi says she does not want to see girls in Mara Region continue to experience the pain and discomfort she went through when she was forced to undergo FGM many years ago. Besides the pain that girls are subjected to both during and after the cut, FGM also is also cited to be the source of child marriage in the region.

Once a girl is circumcised she is considered as a grown up woman to get marriage with some parents exchanging them with dowry that is given in a form of cows.

Having a large number cows is also still perceived as a sign of wealth among the communities of living in the region. There are reports that several hundreds of girls are at risk of undergoing FGM in the region this month (December).

THE first day I came into close proximity ...

Author: MUGINI J ACOB in Serengeti

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