The Anglican Church of Tanzania, Diocese of Mara, is working to educate communities about the effects of FGM (female genital mutilation) and gender based violence through involving church leaders, community leaders and the community at large. As a result of this community education, we have received some girls who run to escape FGM and go to our pastors asking for protection. This situation led to the establishment of the safe house at Mugumu, Serengeti District. In 2014, 143 girls fled from FGM and were protected in the safe house. Thirty-four girls remained there learning tailoring skills, handmade crafts, cooking and computer skills. Also, young women who experienced violence from their families received a short-time place to stay while demanding their rights.
A hundred girls were taken back home after negotiations and relationship-building with the girls and their parents. Then they signed the memorandum of understanding with the police gender desk, village chairman, parents, and the safe house staff, for the safety of the girl back home. Safe house staff – in collaboration with the police gender-desk staff – make follow up visits every month to see their progress.
This work of development and discipleship is challenging most Christians who are still practising the tradition and customs of FGM and violence to women and girls. This situation provides opportunities for church leaders and Christians to challenge this bad tradition and to fight against such violence. A further challenge is to promote girl children going to school and to stop early marriages which can contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS and cause delivery difficulties and complications when they give birth to their children.
Image: Mugumu Safe House Coordinator Rhobi Samwelly with her daughter.