ABOUT 30 senior traditional leaders of Kurya community's various clans met at a significant meeting last weekend and drove the last nail in the coffin of female genital mutilation (FGM) by expressing a possible end of the heinous ritual in the district by 2015.
The two-day meeting was held at a hotel in Tarime town as part of the on-going efforts by Children Dignity Forum (CDF) a local NGO, to cut the number of young girls lined up for circumcision in several villages of Tarime this December.
The traditional leaders said FGM has now become a voluntary practice in the district as compared to the past because of education revolution among other things. "The rate of FGM in Tarime was huge in 1980's, but it has now decreased so much.
It is a voluntary, not compulsory ritual," Mr Boniface Maremo, a secretary for 13 clans of Kurya tribe, told the meeting attended by police officers from the Tarime special police zone as well as some community development officers based in the area. They also alleged that female circumcision practice has also been 'modernized' in a bid to avoid scarring the girls.
"We are now putting marks to maintain our culture, neither do we dance. If we continue providing education, FGM will disappear by 2015. People are also changing very fast. In some areas like Bukenye, it is about 10 per cent," the secretary of Kurya traditional leaders said.
Another prominent traditional leader, Mzee Peter Nchagwa said FGM will automatically end in the area without necessarily using force. "The issue of FGM is dying as is the practice of making holes in the ears (kutoboa masikio). There is no more disfiguring FGM.
We are just putting corn flour on the girls to justify ceremonies but the practice is surely on its way out," Mzee Nchagwa said. The elders said a good number of uncircumcised girls have started getting marriage among the Kurya community, something which was unacceptable in the past.
"This is clear testimony that FGM is ending and even our male youths are getting marriage to girls from different tribes not circumcised," a traditional leader said. The elders wanted education on the effects of FGM to be widely provided to young girls at the risk of being circumcised in the entire district.
"You can just say FGM is finished today. This is our secret, just help us on education. It will be like forbidding police officers to immediately stop criminals," Mr Athanas Chacha said. Mr Chacha also said it was high time similar efforts were made to fight what he described as massive pregnancies in schools. "Why don't we also talk about problem of pregnancy in schools?
Some schools have been turned into love -(mapenzi) colleges," he lamented. Tarime District Commissioner (DC) Mr John Henjewele hinted that plans were underway to set up special public school for girls that would also help to promote girls education and eventually help to fight FGM in the area.
"We are establishing a special secondary and high school for girls (form 1-VI) at Borega to help us in ending this problem," DC Henjewele told reporters shortly after addressing the latest crucial anti- FGM meeting in the district where female circumcision ceremonies are openly conducted.
Authorities in Tarime will continue using traditional leaders to educate people to end FGM in the same way they have fought other evils in the the district, said Mr Henjewele. "We as government we value involvement of traditional leaders and we also value their contribution and for instance they have helped us to end clan clashes and land conflicts," the DC said.
Children Dignity Forum (CDF) Executive Director Mr Koshuma Mtengeti said the meeting revealed fresh challenges facing anti- female circumcision struggle in the area. "It is something with deep roots. We expected the traditional leaders to declare something but it seems they have no power to say no.
We will continue cooperating with them in providing education," CDF Executive Director Mr Koshuma Mtengeti told the 'Daily News' shortly after the meeting.
With it's headquarter in Dar es Salaam CDF has opened an office in Tarime in a bid to intensify its campaign against FGM, child marriages and early pregnancies in the lake zone via it's ambitious programme dubbed Mobilizing Actions to Safeguards Girls Rights. The NGO is getting technical support from Forward UK and sponsored by COMIC Relief also from UK as well, UN Tanzania Inter Agency Group and UNFPA.