In Tanzania, 4 out of 10 girls face gender-based violence, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). As a Tanzanian young woman and future mother I feel very concerned, as the practice negatively affects the future of all girls.
FGM not only constitutes physical, emotional and psychological violence against girls, but it is also a violation of their rights. It is crucial to fight against FGM to ensure girls can reach their goals and thrive, and to contribute to the development of their communities and countries.
Young people stand up against FGM
Since August 2015, I have been working as a young advocate and a member of Plan International’s Youth for Change programme in Tanzania, which aims to fight against FGM and child marriage in the country.
Together with my fellow young advocates, we have been working in partnership with other organisations, including youth-led organisations, to put an end to gender-based violence and raise awareness of its negative impacts.
We use social media to collect views and raise awareness of the impact of FGM. Through our unique online platform for youth activists, Hub for Change, we contribute to making young people’s voices heard around the globe. And we also conduct outreach activities in areas where high rates of FGM persist.
We work relentlessly to put an end to FGM in Tanzania. We had closed meetings with traditional, religious and local government leaders, to discuss the causes and impacts of FGM, and what needs to be done to end this practice. We even met with the Ministry of Health, asking for policies and laws that favor FGM to be changed or removed.
Tradition vs Protection
Female Genital Mutilation often originates in the culture and norms of given communities. In some communities, it is considered a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood for girls; it symbolizes maturity. In these communities, a girl who is not cut is still seen as a child, no matter how old she is.
Girls are mutilated as young as 9, and are married soon after being cut. There is a strong connection between FGM and child marriage. It is considered a great shame for a girl not to be cut, as well as an obstacle to her getting married.
Female Genital Mutilation denies girls many of their rights: The ones to make decisions over their own lives, to be protected against violence, and to have an education to name just a few.
After being cut, girls are often forced into marriage with men that can be thrice their own age. Once married, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse are constant threats for girls. Being cut comes with many dangers for girls’ health and lives. Some of them girls die during the process because they lose too much blood. Others die while giving birth, as they are too young to become mothers.
We all have a role to play
Everyone has a role to play to end FGM. Community members themselves should agree to put an end to this harmful practice, by joining hands with organisations that work to prevent and tackle FGM where they live.
Young people must stand at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness of the devastating impacts of FGM and other forms of gender-based violence, using platforms such as social media. They must be active drivers of change, challenging laws and policies that allow this practice to happen.
Finally, the international community must continue to support initiatives that aim to end FGM, especially the ones led by young people themselves. When I met the European Union (EU)’s Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development in November, I was glad to hear about his commitment to ending violence against girls.
But I hope to see global leaders like the EU further support young women like me to raise our voices and play a role in shaping decisions that affect us. We are the first concerned by the issue of gender-based violence; we are thus the best placed to shape the solutions that will once and for all put an end to Female Genital Mutilation.