They fled away from their homes in December 2011 to avoid the knife and went to a shelter home in Tarime District. The four girls had thought that they had survived and remained at Masanga Shelter home throughout the season. A month later, they went back assuming things had cooled down but, they were in for a shock of their lives…
Immediately after they had returned there, their parents called mutilators to perform the infamous Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to them, that is after they had been whipped with sticks to punish them for running away.
This happened five days ago and was part of the living testimony of a Community Development Officer from Tarime Margaret Momburi who had been ordered to resend the girls only to be told a day later that they had gone back to the ordeal.
This was one of the sad stories shared at a two days workshop on sharing experience and challenges to mark the International Zero Tolerance Day against the FGM, an event organized by the Maputo Protocol Desk at the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).
To make records clear, FGM is an act where either part or whole area of the female clitoris is cut, stitched or pulled in any away and as such inflicting pain to the victim. There are several types of FGM in the world and none of them is better than the other.
There are some who stitch the female parts leaving a little hole for urine and use a horn to tear it down on the wedding day. One ought to imagine the pain the woman would feel.
There are also reports of tribes in the country whose women are cut little by little during each delivery. So the more the children, the more the number of cuts she will sustain. It is wise to note however that tribes which perform the culture like the Maasai, Gogo, and Kuria tend to have a lot of children as some ladies may have as many as 10 children means ten cuts.
There are so many myths over the practice with girls who refuse to undergo the practice facing stigma. For instance according to Bon Mato from Tarime, a girl will not be allowed to mingle with the rest and will be called Msigana. Worse still, she can never milk cows and let alone attempt to get into the banana farms.
In principle, upon marriage, things get even worse as such a lady would face mockery and segregation from in laws who can never allow her to serve them food. To add salt to the wound, should it happen a lady was never mutilated but dies, her body will be left in the forest for wild animals as no one will ever bury them.
Sadly in Tarime, they have decided to do something else, worse than stigma; as they now have opted to forcefully mutilate women who had never gone through this painful culture. This time around, men who did not undergo circumcision in the traditional way are too forced to undergo the same and there are even reported cases of a boy who almost bled to death as a result.
As far as Kuria clansmen are concerned, to undergo the practice in medical centre is a disgrace and a sign of being a coward. They want with no anesthesia or whatsoever. .
A Community Development Officer from Musoma Tanna Nyabange mentions challenges in the pursuit as villagers in the region opting to send their girls to a neighboring country Kenya to perform the practice where things would go unnoticed.
“This is very challenging as with each campaign comes yet another challenge as some parents have opted to move their girls to other villages to mutilate them,” said Nyabange.
A Village legal Worker in Kiteto says FGM is so deep into the culture of the people as some said failure to mutilate a girl meant losing the respect in the community.
Perhaps the worst stories of them is to hear from a paralegal with the LHRC in Tarime Bony Mato who says FGM is conducted in broad daylight and openly and that ward councilors and village chairpersons, and hamlet leaders are invited as chief guests in the event.
Francis Serasini a representatives from NAFGEM admits that in some areas nurses are involved into the practice where they are given something by family members. Most of these incidents are said to be conducted during delivery.
So much has been said and done in regard to fighting the FGM practice in the country but whatever has been done is not good enough. For instance our system lacks shelters which can be permanent to enable the girl child survive and continue with schools, no wonder girls will flee away only to undergo the knife later on.
The best thing for the community is to work hard to the grass-root level to rescue girls facing the knife. Education for men should also be conducted to understand that girls who have not undergone mutilation are as normal.
Campaigners should go all the way to the ground to speak with those who conduct the practice. Traditions are like a religion, they will take time to go, so let all stakeholders do the needful to fight for the change.