Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is illegal in Tanzania, but it is practised in remote areas far from the police, and often only discovered at an antenatal check. Family loyalty is strong, and many women are unwilling to tell what their relatives have
TDT Local Representative Rhobi Samwelly knows only too well the pain girls go through, as she herself was a victim of FGM. Rhobi is passionate about ending the practice, and has spent many years leading a team of actors, singers and dancers into villages to educate and change attitudes towards FGM. They have had huge success, but Rhobi knew it was not enough.
And so the Mugumu Safe House and Vocational Training Centre was built with funds raised by generous TDT supporters in 2014. The Safe House provides a home for 40 girls who want to escape FGM, although during the last cutting season we were housing 134 desperate girls.
Attached to the Safe House is a vocational training centre where the girls learn computer technology, and more traditional skills such as tailoring. The aim is that when they leave they will be well set up to earn their own living. The Safe House is fully staffed with a matron, social worker and security guard, assisted by local volunteers.
The project has achieved a huge amount since its launch, but there is still much to do. Thousands of girls are still at risk of FGM, and your donation can help Rhobi and her team protect them.
This project, begun in in January 2014, to build a Safe House and Vocational Training Centre in Mugumu, Serengeti District of Mara Region is the largest project ever undertaken by TDT. It has been funded by a special Appeal so that it has not distorted TDT’s usual programme of grant making with project partners. Funds have been generously provided (and continue to be) by many organisations, Trusts, BTS members and individuals who have no connection with BTS or TDT but have read about the project on the internet or Facebook or heard the radio programmes of Linda Pressly or found the project on Global Giving. The Safe House was needed because Mara region is one of the few in Tanzania where Female Genital Mutilation is widely practised, with more than half of all girls being at risk. The Safe House is part of a wider campaign against FGM and Gender Based Violence and the Project Leader, Rhobi Samwelly, takes groups of singers, dancers and musicians into remote villages to campaign against FGM and this changing attitudes. The project has been extremely successful to date and TDT has been able to fund a new 10 seater 4WD drive vehicle to rescue girls. The next stage is to complete the Dining Hall and Kitchen on the far side of the Safe House, new septic tank and a perimeter fence. Fund raising is being successful. More than £8000 has been sent to Mara Diocese in 2016, and thanks to 2 Trusts, we have a further £13,000 in hand. About £3,000 remains to be raised. An extension agricultural project will provide food for the Safe House and a surplus to generate income. Fund-raising for this is also on-going.
The generosity of Christchurch, Morningside Edinburgh and DAAT has secured the post of the social worker at the Safe House for 3 years. The first social worker, Sophia Mchomvu worked voluntarily alongside Rhobi during the 2014-15 Cutting Season. She was very successful and a key member of staff and liaises with the girls’ families and the police. She has recently decided to leave and a replacement will be appointed.
Two posts of Teacher in Charge and Legal Assistant have been funded by donation from 2 BTS members. The teaching at the VTC has been subject to criticism by TDT Project Officers and the new post should strengthen this. The Legal Assistant supports the Safe House with difficult cases not only of girls escaping FGM but also of women experiencing Gender Based Violence or forced early marriage. A new appointment of Teacher in Charge was made in April 2016.