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.
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.
Launching an FGM reporting system by text with UNFPA
By Janet Chapman | Fundraising officer
Safe House girls at African Child Day celebrations
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.
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