My second month in Tanzania seems to have flown by, mostly due to the fact I have been travelling for the last 2 weeks. The first trip was to Zanzibar, to meet up with 2 fellow PULSE volunteers, Adrianne and Adrianna both who are based in Nairobi, Kenya. Being the only PULSE volunteer in Dar, this was the first time I have spoken at length with any of the other volunteers in person (although we do have a great facebook group where we share experiences). It was comforting to discuss the similar challenges that we all face due to working and living in East Africa. Sometimes its not always sunshine and rainbows that we see on social media, and when all you hear are the good parts of other PULSE volunteer experiences, it can be isolating. I know I am guilty of posting all the fun and exciting parts of my experience on this blog so far and social media. In this past month, I’ve realised I can use this blog and instagram to show friends and family around the world what Tanzania is really like, and the everyday challenges the people living here face.
I got this idea from a photographer Amref Health Africa has been working with recently. Sam Vox is an extremely talented photographer who focuses on development work within Tanzania. He got into photography when he was working in Asia and wanted to show his new friends what his country was really like. His instagram handle is @sam.vox
On that note, the focus of this blog will be about one of the main challenges girls still face in Africa (and around the world) – Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/FGC). Chances are, that you have heard of this, it’s hitting the news cycle back home as despite it being made illegal for three decades, there has still been no successful prosecutions in the UK. Estimates say that 137,000 of girls are victims of this crime every year in England and Wales (Source: rightsinfo.org).
Amref Health Africa has been focuses on this issue for a long time, and one of our employees Nice Nailantei was named among the Time Magazine’s world’s 100 most influential people of 2018 for her work on preventing FGM in Kenya.
There can not be one strategy for ending FGM in Africa – the reasons behind it vary between the different communities that perform it. In Tanzania, it is cultural, it has been performed for as long as anyone can remember and in engrained in their family culture – it is how they mark a girl moving into women hood and therefore able to marry and have children. It is not seen as a barbaric act, but a part of their family tradition. However, in the northern parts of Kenya, it is done for religious reasons as it is believed to be cleaner for a women. These are just 2 examples.
Last week, I had the privilege to join the Amref UK team in Handeni district in Tanga, Tanzania, to meet some of the benefices in the region who had been impacted from the projects that Amref UK support in Tanzania. (Quick note on Amref – they have fundraising offices in Europe and North America which then fund projects in country offices such as Tanzania). We were also here to conduct interviews and take photographs to use for future fundraising and communications. This is super important to complete during a project to ensure the donor is kept up to date and also to showcase the work Amref is doing to help with future grants.
We had the honour of being meeting with a group of Maasai elders, who spoke to us (in Maasai, thankfully one of the Amref field officers was a Maasai so could translate) about why they had stopped cutting girls during their communities right of passage ceremonies. During the Amref ARP (Alternative Right of Passage) project, the Maasai had been to education sessions which focussed on why this was an issue for girls (issues in pregnancy and childbirth, infection, physiological issues, urination). This may seem obvious, but remember this is engrained in their families and would not be discussed openly by the community. By focussing on the people who have the power in the community, change can happen faster and more efficiently – and even if we can stop one girl going through this horrific ordeal, then it is all worth it.
Read more here – https://amref.org/cause/end-fgm/