This cutting season is gearing up to be one of our busiest - we now have 301 girls in our 2 safe houses and Rhobi is preparing to rescue 80 more. They are expected to remain until January at the earliest, when the long process of reconciliation with their families begins. They will not be returned until their parents have signed an affadavit promising not to cut them. This can take multiple, expensive visits.
Girls generally turn up with only the clothes on their back. Sometimes without even shoes or underwear.
We are in urgent need of funds, particuarly for food.
Your donations will go directly to girls at the safe houses. They will allow us to buy food, sanitary products and educational materials for the young girls escaping FGM.
Just last week, HGWT hosted another screening of the documentary 'In the Name of Your Daughter'. The film screening was at Bwirege primary school in the Butiama District and it led to 3 girls speaking out. They were scared and asked for HGWT's help in escaping their cutting ceremonies.
HGWT is protecting young girl's dreams and saving lives. The safe houses are the only source of sanctuary many of these girls have and resources are spread thin because of the high demand for our help.
What Rhobi, our founder does is not easy but as an FGM survivor, her passion allows her to transcend any adversities our safe houses have in their way. This season of giving, you can be assured that your donation will go directly to saving girls from FGM.
Thank you, and best wishes for the festive season.
Last week Rhobi was invited to tell her story as an FGM survivor and activist at a high level panel as part of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. She spoke movingly about begging her parents not to cut her, as she feared dying and her body being thrown in the bush to be eaten by wild animals, as had happened to her friend Sabina. But her pleas were in vain and she was cut and nearly bled to death. She has since dedicated her life to saving other girls from a similar fate.
You can watch a recording of her testimony here.
The following day Rhobi and I participated in a mapathon at UNFPA organised by Crowd2map where we explained how better maps can help activists like Rhobi quickly find girls at risk of FGM and showed people how they can help to create them. There were side events in over 60 countries as part of this global FGM event, including at the Ministry of Women in Somalia, and with FGM activists in Kenya, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Uganda, Djibouti and many more.
And now Rhobi is in London for the UK premiere of the film about her work, In the name of your daughter. For those of you near London, Nottingham or Yorkshire I hope you may get the chance to watch it and to meet Rhobi.
Thank you again for your generosity in supporting girls refusing FGM in Tanzania.
We are delighted that the UNFPA have decided to award Rhobi's organisation Hope for Women and Girls a capacity building grant so that she can deliver a text based FGM reporting system in time for the major cutting season expected in December. This will be pilotted in Butiama District with the full cooperation of the governement officials there and assistance from UNFPA. The idea is then to roll it out more widely the following year.
The support from UNFPA comprises a grant of $20,000 to enable Hope to publicise the new system with outreach work in each village with roadshows, drama presentations and debates. At these they will also put up posters in the schools, clinics and village offices detailing how the public can report FGM, as well as distribute mini postcards. Hope will also organise various radio adverts alerting people in the weeks leading up to the cutting season, and also warning about the illegality and dangers of FGM more generally. Radio adverts and shows are a really good way of reaching many people in this area where very few people have electricity or tv.
Furthermore the grant entitles Rhobi and her staff to access a wide range of training, mentoring and support, and is of course an endorsement of her work as an anti-FGM activist over many years. So well done Rhobi!
In further good news the film about Rhobi In The Name of Your Daughter will be shown at a VIP screening hosted by the European Union and attended by representatives from the Ministry of Gender, the Police Department and many NGOs, and also at the Zanzibar Film Festival. We are hoping this will really maximise its impact. It will be shown on the BBC and other international TV stations later in the year, dates yet to be confirmed, and we are hoping to arrange screenings in villages in Serengeti before the cutting season too.
Last month Hope participated in the Day of the African Child celebration, and 6 girls were sponsored by NOMAD to visit their tourism facilities to learn about careers in tourism. They have also offered to sponsor girls into a vocational course on this - so many thanks NOMAD.
So thank you again for supporting Rhobi’s FGM work in Tanzania. If you would like more frequent updates about her work please follow Hope on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and their blog.
Last month Plan International paid for Rhobi and Rosie and Neema, 2 of the girls she is supporting to fly to Copenhagen for the Première of “In the Name of Your Daughter” at the Documentary Film Festival there on March 20th. This film was made by the Canadian multi-award winning Human Rights journalist, Giselle Portenier about girls escaping FGM in Tanzania’s Mara Region and the work of Rhobi and her colleagues in combatting FGM and running a Safe House* to provide a sanctuary for the girls.
The film shows the way that FGM in Mara is closely related to the local cow-based economy. We hear why husbands still want to marry girls who have been cut, claiming that this will reduce their tendency to unfaithfulness or promiscuity. We hear also from a tailor who fears the loss of business in new dresses for girls who survive FGM. We meet parents who accept their daughter’s decision against FGM, and also those who dishonestly pretend to do so, and those who reject their daughters and the pain this causes. So, the film is not simplistic but very honest. It shows that changing hearts and minds is not easy in a rural community where cattle and agriculture provide almost the sole source of income, and where also educational standards are low. Girls who are cut marry young and rarely gain secondary education, so the campaign against FGM is also a campaign for the right of every girl to secondary education. The film demonstrates the importance of support from the police and civil authorities and we see the excellent assistance Rhobi and her team get from the local police and Giselle was able to film arrests being made. ‘In the Name of your Daughter’ could have been a bleak film. That it isn’t is because of the charisma of Rhobi and because of the courage and witness of the girls and the mutual love and care they show. We see Rosie and Neema become confident public speakers and taking the anti-FGM message into local schools, quite unabashed about telling other children why FGM is so bad for girls and how it differs from male circumcision.
The Première had a number of distinguished guests including Her Excellency Emi Furuya, Canadian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, The film was extremely well received and after it Giselle, Rhobi and Rosie and Neema got a tremendous reception and were given time to answer a few questions. Every audience who saw it was visibly moved, touched, and fascinated. “Moving,” “Touching” “Inspiring” “Life changing” were words I heard. The Danish children in particular were very moved. In addition to the three CPH:DOX screenings which included a school screening, two otherl school screenings with children 13-17 took place. Rosie and Neema said the complete highlight of the trip was to meet the Danish children. 13-year-old Danish girl Regitze pronounced the film ‘Life-changing’ with tears in her eyes.
Rhobi and the girls were also featured on Danish Radio which included an interview with Rhobi and the girls and International Development Minister Ulla Tornaes, who came to a screening and met the girls. They were also treated to a private tour of parliament with MP Trine Bramsen
The film has also been shown on Scandinavian TV and will be on the BBC later this year. When we know the date and time of showing we shall let all supporters know.
Many thanks for your support to Rhobi and her staff, They are busy back in Tanzania running the two safe houses in Mugumu and Butiama, and preparing for the cutting season in November which is expected to be a major one.
With money from your generous donations, Rhobi has rescued 172 girls from FGM. Her new NGO Hope for Girls and Women have set up new Safe Houses in Butiama and Mugumu. Girls have come from many parts of Mara and every girl and woman who joins the safe house after fleeing FGM receives a free health check, including tests for HIV, pregnancy, and malaria as well as a gynecological examination.
As the cutting season is now over, they have been holding graduation ceremonies this week for girls and women who participated in their training programme after refusing FGM!. This training included lessons on harmful cultural practices that undermine women's rights, such as FGM, in addition to information about children's rights, reproductive health, and hygiene as well as sports activities. The graduation ceremony included singing, poetry, short dramas, and empowering words from the guest of honour, Martha Omindo.
Social worker Neema has been coordinating with local police and meeting with the parents and guardians of girls and women staying at the Safe Houses to ensure they can return home to a safe environment, free from pressure to undergo FGM, child marriage, or other forms of gender based violence. So far, 42 girls and women have successfully returned home and the process is continuing this week.
The holiday season in Mara was very busy! In addition to outreach work rescuing girls, and ensuring there is a strong programme for their welfare at the Safe Houses, Rhobi gave a presentation on the negative effects of FGM and other forms of gender based violence to 150 women as part of the Serengeti District Council’s entrepreneurship training programme. This training included information on how women can access loans to develop their own businesses and provide for their families. Social Worker Neema also talked at the State of the Map Tanzania conference in Dar es Salaam about how having better maps helps protect girls from FGM and how they are mapping and was interviewed on national television. A very busy month for Neema who also graduated from Moi University - congratulations.
This Christmas Hope received carpentry equipment for the vocational training centre and a bicycle girls can ride to school. We were also given 120 solar lights from Cristina in London! Thanks for the amazing gifts!! These donations help vulnerable girls achieve their dreams and remain safe from FGM and other forms of gender based violence.
According to the 2016 Tanzanian Demographic and Health Survey, over 30% of women in the Mara Region have undergone FGM but 96% oppose its continuation. Let's end it!
You can see regular updates about Hope for Girls and Women here.
Many thanks for your support and we wish you a very happy 2018!
Janet and Rhobi
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