Tanzania: 500 girls saved from genital mutilation this Christmas

 This Christmas, 500 girls have been saved from the shocking practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nyamongo community, Tanzania. Village elders and circumcisers were arrested, as anti-FGM campaigners joined forces across the country. Female genital mutilation is a cultural tradition practised on young girls in countries in Africa such as Tanzania and Somaliland. Made illegal in Tanzania in 1998, under the Sexual Offence Special Provisions Act, FGM can cause severe bleeding and even death, as well as long-term complications to women's reproductive health. It also adds to the spread of HIV and AIDS if instruments are not properly sterilised. The arrests came after villagers ignored widespread pressure to change their ways. FGM campaigners had worked tirelessly with circumcisers and elders from Nyamongo, to highlight their concerns, and illustrate the damage FGM can cause young girls. But at the beginning of December campaigners, including Christian Aid partners Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and Tanzanian Women Media Association (TAMWA), discovered that the elders were planning to circumcise 500 girls during the Christmas period, despite having agreed to end this harmful tradition. TAMWA instigated an article on the front page of The African, one of Tanzania's leading newspapers, appealing to clan elders to abandon their intention of carrying out FGM. Women's groups, including CCT, joined forces in Nyamongo to urge the elders, once again, not to go ahead. But, according to anti-FGM campaigner, Jennifer Chiwute, when CCT arrived in the community, the circumcisers were nowhere to be found. The campaigners then took their fight to the police, who later arrested the circumcisers and the village elders for intent to carry out harm to children. "We had many girls coming to us crying for help," said Mrs Chiwute. "People in the community gave us the names of the girls being put forward for FGM, so we were able to go to the police and stop it. After our workshops with the elders of Nyamongo, we thought they were committed to stopping FGM, but we've found we need to continue with education for the whole community." The debate is still going on in Nyamongo. Campaigners continue to run workshops and use TV adverts and press campaigns to raise awareness of FGM. Yet there is still a long way to go in the fight to end this shocking tradition. Source: Christian Aid

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