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Nyamboge protected from FGM and determined to fulfil her dreams

February 23rd, 2023

Nyamboge was born with a form of paralysis and was sadly rejected by her father. With the belief that disability is a ‘curse’ in the family, her uncle forcefully wanted her to undergo FGM to avoid a second ‘curse.’ Fortunately, we sensitised her family and she was protected from undergoing the mutilation. Additionally, she was provided with crutches to aid her mobility, linked with the network for children with disabilities for psychosocial support and trained to be a peer trainer.

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Nyamboge protected from FGM

Home life

Thirteen-year-old Nyamboge lives with her mother and grandmother in a small house constructed with mud, sticks and grass. She is the third born in her family. The house serves as the family’s bedroom, seating area and kitchen. Nyamboge’s uncle and his family live in another house in the same compound. Nyamboge’s mother is the provider of the family and their source of livelihood is small-scale farming.. Her farm proceeds add up to 13 Euros monthly since she harvests crops twice every year. She grows cassava, sorghum, maize, beans, bananas and some paw paws for household consumption only. The family hardly gets three meals a day. They are not concerned whether they eat a balanced diet or not, all they care about is getting something to eat.

Labelled ‘A Cursed child’

Majority of the people in Tarime district believe that disability is a curse in the family, the same belief was extended to Nyamboge. She was born with a form of paralysis on one side of her body (leg and hand), and she was sadly rejected by her father because of this. Almost  a week after Nyamboge was born, she and her mother were chased away from their home by her father. Nyamboge’s father blamed his wife for giving birth to a ‘cursed child’. They went back to Nyamboge’s grandmother, with whom they currently live with. Nyamboge’s two sisters (aged 18 and 16 respectively) were left with their father whose homestead is located about 10 kilometers from their grandmother's home. Due to lack of awareness on disability, stigma and a poor family situation, Nyamboge was never taken to any disability clinic for assessment and treatment. She vividly remembers that as she grew up, her uncle and his family hated her and always reminded her that she was a ‘curse’ and not worth anything. She was never accepted by her uncle’s family or her neighbours. “I love to have a father and be like other children, but unfortunately my father rejected me because of my disability, it really pains me,”she explains. She adds that she desires to go to school but her family cannot afford school uniforms, and she also feared that other children would laugh at her. With the school being approximately two kilometres away from their home, and her lacking assistive devices to support her daily walks to and from school; Nyamboge never enrolled in school.

Threat of FGM

Since the beginning of 2022, Nyamboge’s uncle talked about the need to have her undergo FGM, just like her cousins. He insisted that if she does not undergo the cut, it would impose a second curse and that will not be acceptable in the family where he commands authority. Nyamboge’s mother and grandmother were opposed to FGM since one of their neighbour’s children died from excessive bleeding following her genital cut, about seven years ago. She continued to be at risk because her uncle promised to take the girl by force to the mutilator in December of 2022 so that she would be cut. He has threatened to throw out Nyamboge’s mother from the compound if she remained adamant to his demands.

Rescue plan

Luckily in June 2022, Nyamboge’s case was brought up during a meeting with the child protection committee facilitated by ATFGM. The committee recommended counselling for the entire extended family on FGM and disability; and put in place a rescue plan for Nyamboge should her uncle attempt to force her to undergo the cut which causes serious medical complications, and can result to death. ATFGM and social welfare officers also resolved to meet Nyamboge’s father to sensitise him on disability and the need for Nyamboge’s protection, but they were unsuccessful in tracing him.  

Much needed assistance

In September 2022, ATFGM and social welfare officers visited Nyamboge’s family and provided psychosocial support and counselling. In collaboration with People’s Development Forum, they supported Nyamboge to get much needed crutches to aid her mobility. These helped her attend children advocacy meetings on disability organised by ATFGM in collaboration with TdH NL and the Social Welfare department. Additionally, she was linked with the network for children with disabilities for psychosocial support and was trained as a peer trainer. 

Representatives of the CP committee provided awareness on disability and FGM to her extended family and are further following up with her father to provide counseling and sensitise him on disability too. ATFGM in collaboration with the Village Executive Officer (VEO) linked Nyamboge’s mother to Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) and was enrolled in the government support program for most vulnerable people. Nyamboge also benefited from a training on advocacy for children with disabilities and has since been raising awareness with her peers on the needs of children with disabilities.

The project team continue to conduct regular home visits  to ensure that Nyamboge is protected from disability related stigma and FGM, and also provide her with basic needs. They are also preparing to enrol Nyamboge in an accelerated school program or in a vocational centre. Village Executives and volunteers are monitoring the FGM situation in Nyamboge’s village and reporting to the committee. In case she faces the risk of undergoing FGM , she will be rescued and provided with shelter.

One wish

Nyamboge's daily life has since improved and she is now able to move around with ease. She now uses crutches to aid her walking rather than crawling, which has greatly improved her mobility and self reliance. She is able to attend church with her mother, and is happy to meet her fellow children with disabilities and share experiences.

“ATFGM together with the government helped me while my uncle forced me to be mutilated I will appreciate being sheltered at the  rescue centre if there will be risk of being forced to be cut,” Nyamboge said. “I am happy because ATFGM remembered children with disabilities in their programmes.” “I am thankful to ATFGM for frequently visiting me, that encourages me due to my situation. I am grateful I have also been trained and am capable of teaching my fellow Children on their rights,”she added.

Aspiring for a better future , Nyamboge says, “I would like to be a gospel singer, and wish that all children with disabilities would get the assistance they need so as to fulfil their dreams.”

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