The power of sharing

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.

 

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Amref UK and Amref Tanzania team with the group of Maasai elders who we discussed FGM and other community issues with
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Rafael, one of the elders in the community. He had just recently started a honey business which he is selling into Dar es Saalam

 

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/

 

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8 comments

  1. Great explanation! I can imagine the big challenge should be to discuss this kind of issue considering the cultural and religious perspective of the communities, and the health and safety of these girls in other hand. Good experience! Hope you have enjoyed the weekend with both Adri’s 😃. Cheers!

  2. Thank you for explaining more about FGM in Africa as an everyday challenge in Tanzania to educate readers. Also so glad you were able to see two other PULSE volunteers in person!

  3. Thanks Louise for sharing and highlighting this issue! You asked me earlier whether FGM is included in my volunteering project (Ending Child Marriage in the MENA Region) or not…Now, after partnering with UNICEF in my project, FGM is not only included, but also highlighted as one of the main points to be tackled in the Girls Summit!

    1. Hi Omar, thats great to hear – as the 2 issues usually come hand in hand. The girls in the maasai community also get married very young, around 12-14 after the go through the ceremony. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hello Louise, this is such an interesting blog. Just decreeing that something is wrong is too simplistic and certainly doesn’t put an end to it; the reality is that understanding, sensitivity and education are key. Glad you had a great time with more Pulse 10 buddies!

    1. Hi Deborah! So glad you found it interesting, I am learning so much about the issues, people and culture here. Hope you are having a great assignment!

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