Last Friday, Lisa, Jane & myself visited the Bisawari Community with Benson Thadeus and our usual community team.
We were confronted with the issue of female circumcision.
We were informed that 85% of the women in the Tarime District are circumcised, whereas only 18% of Tanzania’s women are circumcised.
Benson was wonderful in the way her drew out the facts and concerns from the male community leaders in Bisawari. Benson is a young high school teacher, who is passionate about the empowerment of women in this patriachial society in the Tarime District.
Every December Female Genatile Mutilation (FGM) occurs in the communities with the girls aged between 13-15 years. A huge celebration happens during this period, the community dances all night. Circumcision is seen as the girl’s right of passage into womanhood and marriage. The circumsisor is a hugely respected female elder. Her hands are considered sacred. During the whole event she does not wash her hands, hence at the end of circumcision, her hands are covered in blood. Once the circumcisions are completed, her hands are covered in cow dung which cleanses her hands with the removal of the dung when it has dried.
The girls are encouraged to bring their own blades, so the practice of sharing a knife has almost gone, through education. The girls are held down, in broad daylight in the fields. There is no privacy for the girls. It is punishable if the girl pushes the circumcisor’s hands. The punishment is usually by way of payment of a cow.
I cannot give you any statistics on death rates due to infection and haemhorrage because there are not such statistics in these ruiral communities. However, death does occur with these young girls due to FGM.
There are 4 different forms of FGM. The clitoris is always removed. The most extreme cases the labia are removed and the vagina is sewen closed, with only a tiny opening left to urinate through.
Unfortunately, I will be back in Australia when the ceremonies start, but Lisa will attend at least one. I know it will be really confronting, but I question, “how can we help if we don’t know”!. I will hopefully be able to attend next year in December.
This morning I had a meeting with Bomani, who like Benson is trying to empower women in the Tarime district. Bomani runs seminars to enform the young girls about the dangers encounted with FGM, both short and long term dangers. He, like Benson are looking for support so they can educate and inform the young girls about FGM. Bomani stated that FGM makes the women sexually disinterested, hence one of the main reasons for the men seeking extramaratial relationships.
There is no government funding in Tarime to empower the women, especially with issues of FGM.
Both men are willing to answer questions or correspondence if you wish to email them.
Love to all in Australia