Their tears said a lot in regard to what was happening in the area, and for once some of us felt that some of the girls were perhaps recalling what had happened during the previous season when thousands of girls underwent the knife. The day was different from others as anti FGM campaigners were marking the International Zero Tolerance Day.
Elders of that area were there watching with so much seriousness whatever was going in there, but sadly, they seemed to ponder on something else that we were to find later on.
Earlier on, hundreds of activists had marched around Mugumu, the headquarters of Serengeti district with placards relaying a message on FGM with most of them calling upon an end to the practice. The songs, poems, and traditional dancers all had a message to tell the multitude of the people who had turned over there, and that is they wanted FGM gone forever. Despite what went on during the day, there were all signs that some people were doing a lucrative business out of girls’ blood and that there was a need to do something bigger to curb it.
Traditional elders, the people blamed for instigating the practice were there watching and listening to each message relayed during the day, but one did not need to be a psychic to foreseer that there was more in their looks than the eyes could meet.
A group of traditional dancers chanted and came up with a drama of a man who had forced a child to undergo the practice only to see her die in the hands of the mutilator.
The Anti- FGM coalition also had a message to relay to the government where in its speech, they called upon the government to show a political will by setting resources to eradicate the FGM to girls and women in the country.
Reading a speech on behalf of others, Sara Mwaga from AFNET in Dodoma said the government had put in place some good laws to protect women and girls yet lagged behind when it came to implementation.
Indeed, it had, as even as we spoke at the International Zero Tolerance Day, only two mutilators were behind bars ever since the campaign began for years indicating that there was more work to be done to curb the practice, with some leaders in areas where the brutal practice was rampant denying its prevalence.
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children Ummy Mwalim too had a message to tell in her speech read on her behalf by Mara Regional Social Welfare Officer Samson Mukama, calling upon police officers to utilize its gender desks by giving weight to all cases on domestic violence.
“Mara is one of the regions leading in mutilating its girls with most people showing reluctance to stop the practice. The government will conduct a research to find out reasons for some tribes clinging to such outdated traditions while others have stopped,” said the deputy minister.
She said tribes clinging into mutilating its girls did so by using lame excuses that it was part and parcel of their traditions and customs and wondered on whether there were reasons to cling to ruthless acts which degrade girls and women.
“The government is dismayed with these ruthless acts as it goes against humanity,” said Mwalim.
As for traditional elders in Serengeti, the men behind the scene, they too had a call for the government to provide loans to help them involve into business to earn their livelihood to enable them shun away from FGM.
The elders who are blamed for being the ones in charge of deciding the season to mutilate girls said they have been earning a livelihood from the practice as in most cases parents tend to pay them handsomely due to their positions.
“The government needs to educate peer educators who will create awareness to the society. We need to move with time by shunning away from cutting our girls but lest we forget that we as elders have been earning a livelihood from FGM and telling us to stop, means an end to our lucrative business” said Mwita Sabai, a traditional elder from Serengeti.
This message was to us a pain in the neck as it did not show a will by the said leaders to shun away from the practice. In a way, they seemed to give conditions that if not met, would be enough an excuse for them to cling to the practice. So they have been earning out of the practice what if the government does not give them loans? Should we expect them to ever stop from it? One wonders.
This was certainly one of the lamest excuses to cling on bad practice as bad as it can be, yet we had no choice but to take their word on it, at least for a while until we come with a way to curb it.
Representatives from the government were there, and they all heard it from the horse’s mouth and it is only fair to say they know where and who to start with when it comes to fighting with the outdated traditions.
Anna Henga Katemana, Head of Gender and Children Unit, at the Legal and Human Rights Centre, did not mince words when it came to effects of the practice mentioning Fistula, urine detention, difficulties during delivery, bleeding and at times death as what could befall girls and women who undergo the practice.
She admitted that Africans have a lot of traditions and cultures but said it was about time they learnt to cling into good ones and shun from those with effects to humankind such as the FGM/C.
Time has come to do away with the practice and to rally behind the coalition against this harmful practice the alike of LHRC, TAMWA, WOWAP, CCT, AFNET, DIAC, NAFGEM, TAWLA, WORLD VISION and BAKWATA.
The government through its minister should too wake up and act fast instead of leaving all the campaigns to civil societies.
Experience has proven that the government’s hand is always a force to reckon with, and a voice from it could boost efforts by other stakeholders such as those mentioned above.
Tanzania has managed to deal with a lot of serious issues such as banditry and with the same tempo; it can curb the FGM/C. Aluta continue, the fight must go on, to save a girl child from the ruthless act.
by Rose Mwalongo