ON May 5, hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered at Maburi village in Serengeti district of Mara Region to witness the official launch of a fresh programme aimed at cutting down gender based violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS in the area.
The long- day event was coloured by performances by various traditional dance groups that strongly conveyed anti gender based violence and HIV/AIDS messages to the audience.
The programme, "The Serengeti, We Can Live Without HIV/AIDS and Gender Based Violence and Female Genital Mutilation", was officially launched by the outgoing Serengeti District Commissioner(DC) Mr Edward Lenga who has been transferred to the new district, Kalambo in the recent DC's reshuffle done by President Jakaya Kikwete on Wednesday.
Mr Lenga urged people to cooperate fully so as to stop the violence. "I have been told that this programme is targeting girls, women, boys and men. I believe all beneficiaries will be supportive," the DC said in his speech made available to the 'Daily News' on Thursday.
The one year programme will be executed by Anglican Church, Mara Diocese with funding from the Rapid Fund Envelope (RFE). Villages benefiting from the programmes are Maburi, Mununa, Gusuhi, Hekwe, Mesaga, Kenyamonta, Nyambureti, Majimoto, Ringw'ani, Nyamitita, Masinki and Kenyana from of Kenyamonta, Nyambureti and Ringw'ani wards.
The District Commissioner in his speech made it clear that Serengeti is one of the areas in Mara region with a high rate of gender based violence cases that has contributed to the wide spread of HIV/AIDs infections, hence he called for concerted efforts to tackle the problem. "All stakeholders involved in this programme must cooperate fully and I thank Anglican Church, Mara Diocese for initiating this project in Serengeti", said Mr Lenga.
Traditional, local and religious leaders are some of stakeholders. The function was also attended by Bishop Hilkiah Omindo Deya of the Anglican Church Mara Diocese, local leaders and traditional elders from the target villages among others. Bishop Omindo said Anglican Church is determined to join hands with RFE to tackle gender based violence and HIV/AIDS for the benefit of many people in the area.
Traditional elders also welcomed the programme and promised to back it despite the fact they have always been in the frontline of promoting female circumcision in Serengeti and the neighbouring districts of Mara including Tarime where hundreds of young girls are circumcised.
The programme will also address the issue of women to women marriages which are locally known as Nyumba ntobu among the Kurya tribe, according to the programme manager Ms Rhobi Samweli. "We are mainly focusing on imparting anti- gender based violence education and awareness through community meetings, road shows featuring traditional dances, radio programmes, peer educators, posters and booklets," the programme manager said.