10 December 2018

Tanzania: New Approach to End FGM Bears Fruit

A NEW approach to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Tanzania is now bearing fruit in areas the practice is still practised.

The approach involves engaging traditional circumcisers and clan heads, who are influential in fighting against the practice.

Speaking on the new approach, Assistant Director of the Family Unit at the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Grace Mwangwa said the new approach involved supporting traditional circumcisers and clan heads financially to discourage them from engaging in the cruel practice.

"One of the studies has established that money is the biggest factor in the proliferation of FGM," said the official, when responding to a question by 'Daily News' on the sidelines of a crossborder FGM workshop held at the weekend.

The official further revealed that the government also utilised the Productive Social Safety Net Programme (PSSN) implemented countrywide by Tanzania Social Action Fund (Tasaf).

"Cash transfer programmes have played a crucial role in reducing FGM," she noted. Such interventions, according to Ms Mwangwa, have seen traditional circumcisers surrender their tools of trade, while some of the parents have changed their perception of the practice.

"The new approach has somewhat helped to reduce FGM cases in some of the worst hit areas," she said.

Data obtained from the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS-2015/16), however, shows that Manyara Region still had the most prevalence FGM rate (58 per cent), followed by Dodoma (47 per cent) and Arusha is third (41 per cent).

The practice endangers girls' lives, depriving them of their rights and denying them their ability to realise their full potential.

In Tanzania, FGM is illegal. It was first criminalised in 1998 in the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, which amended the Penal Code (Cap 16).

The practice is deeply rooted in social norms, cultural beliefs and economic incentives. It is often seen to be a means of controlling women's sexuality and, in many communities, is considered as an important rite of passage into womanhood.

Delivering his speech, EU Chargé d'Affaires Charles Stuart commended government efforts to crack down on the heinous practice on the girl child and women in general.

Mr Stuart noted that incorporating FGM in the country's national plan of action was a milestone in keeping women and the girl child safe. "Tanzania is faring extremely well in strategising policies of eradicating FGM," he noted.

The EU official, however, stressed the importance of raising more awareness on why FGM continued to persist. "People around the world wouldn't understand why this continues to happen.

It is, therefore, crucial to raise more awareness on the issue," said the diplomat.

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