Terre des Hommes logo
DonateFight with us

Fight with us

Become a donorAs a partnerDonate your goods

Renewed hope after being protected from undergoing FGM: Magaiwa´s moving story

February 22nd, 2023

Magaiwa was born with a disability that saw her family and herself experience extensive stigma and discrimination, leading them to relocate to a new area. Unfortunately, she faced the risk of undergoing FGM following the mounting pressure from her extended family and the community. Luckily, she was rescued, sheltered and provided with counselling and psychosocial support. She now knows more about her rights and worth, and is motivated to study and achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

Magaiwa using her feet to read pages of a book, photo credit: ATFGM
Magaiwa using her feet to read pages of a book, photo credit: ATFGM

Magaiwa’s early life

Magaiwa, 12, is the third born in a blended family of six children. Magaiwa’s father has only one child (Magaiwa) with her mother, and has other four children, 2 boys and 3 girls from another woman. He is the sole provider in the family, engaging in small-scale mixed farming of cultivating cassava, maize, beans and sweet potatoes, and earning about 45 Euros per month to sustain his family and provide basic needs such as food and clothing, and other needs like medical care. The family fetches water from a well about one kilometer away, but during the dry seasons the well dries up therefore they travel 3 kilometers to fetch water from a river. 

Magaiwa was born with a disability; her left leg and both hands were very emaciated. At birth, her hands were seemingly bent and as she grew up, her parents noted that her left leg and both hands were too weak to function normally. They took her to hospital for medical assistance. Her left leg was treated, but it proved difficult to treat her hands as it was too expensive for her father to afford.  Despite her disability, Magaiwa is able to complete small duties at home and sometimes washes clothes using her legs. She is able to walk a few kilometers, although slowly.

Yearning to go to school

Magaiwa yearned to go to school but her father was reluctant to enrol her because he was worried about her incapacitated hands, weak legs and the stigma associated with her disability, which had already attracted enough discrimination from their relatives and the community. Magaiwa persistently talked to her father about her desire to go to school despite her disability. Luckily, she was finally enrolled in a nearby primary school in January 2017 at 8 years old. However, she faced the challenge of inability to hold a pencil or book, and the school infrastructure was unfriendly for children with disabilities.

Magaiwa recalls how she was laughed at and discriminated against by every child in the school as they did not want to associate with her. Her family too faced similar challenges of isolation and discrimination from their relatives who abandoned them in the time of need, and the whole community who viewed Magaiwa as a ‘curse’.

Forced to relocate

Despite the stigma and discrimination, Magaiwa’s loving parents were protective and did their best to provide her with the basic needs. She remained in Kambalage school for two years before the discrimination and the community’s negative attitude became unbearable, forcing them to relocate to Butiama in December 2018, where Magaiwa’s uncle lived. There, they found a welcoming relative who gave them some space to build a homestead and plant some crops for their domestic consumption. Magaiwa was transferred from Kambalage primary school to Kitalamanka primary school in grade 3 in 2021, having been out of school for two years during the period of resettlement in the new location.

Taught to write

In the new school, Magaiwa was fortunate to find a concerned teacher who taught  her to use her foot to hold a pen in 2021 while in grade 3. She has been using her foot to write since then and her school performance has improved. She completed grade 4 in 2022 and was ready to transit to grade 5 in 2023 after passing her grade 4 national examinations. “Growing up, I saw myself as someone with no value in the community. However, I wanted to attend school though I knew that in school students use their hands to write, a privilege I did not have, and my clansmen despised me because of that too. This bothered me a lot and made me feel unworthy.” she explained.

Threat of being cut

In November 2022, Magaiwa’s family visited their former homestead in Kimusi village in Tarime with plans of cultivating their land. One of her uncles incited the clan to push them to have her undergo FGM claiming that it will cleanse the family from curses.

Protected and supported

ATFGM received information from the village executive director about the planned forced FGM for Magaiwa by the community. Luckily, with the help of the Village executive officer, the social welfare officer, and police gender desk, ATFGM rescued Magaiwa from her village and took her to the shelter. 

November and December of 2022 saw thousands of girls in Tarime district undergo the cut, with all the 12 tribes in the district conducting FGM. Were it not for the protection from her family and the rescue from the village, Magaiwa would have been forced to undergo the cut. 

“When my uncle began pressuring my father to have me cut, I became afraid and imagined the pain and the loss of blood that I could experience. I thought of stories of girls who died due to too much blood loss after being cut, and I became angry. I felt I needed to run away but my feet are too weak to run. I decided to wait for my parents to protect me like they always did,” Magaiwa recalled. 

ATFGM provided Magaiwa with counselling and psychosocial support. She was educated on the effects of FGM, rights of children with disabilities and the government’s protection responsibility to children and participated in peer education of sexual and reproductive health. Social and legal officers had sessions with her family and educated them on the effects of FGM and child marriage, legal awareness in reference to child abuse and information on reporting and referral pathways. 

Follow up visits to Magaiwa’s family confirmed that she was receiving care and protection from her family. ATFGM is following up on the family regularly, and are aware that Magaiwa is still in need of physiotherapy and educational support.

Renewed hope

Through counselling and the interaction she had with her peers at the ATFGM shelter, Magaiwa’s mindset was changed. She now looks at herself positively and is happy. Previously she felt she was not good enough, and she was always gloomy and mostly quiet. She kept away from other children for fear of being laughed at. Now, she plays with other children and is able to express herself. She knows her rights and has renewed hope of attaining her dream of completing school and becoming a doctor. Her family is now aware of the rights of children with disabilities, child abuse and has legal readiness for reporting and referral pathways. Her family has always been supportive and is keen on protecting Magaiwa from the aggression of the community towards FGM. 

Magaiwa, inspired and very motivated about her future said, “I am very comforted having come to know about ATFGM and I have learnt a lot concerning the rights of children with disabilities and the government’s responsibility of protecting them. I believe that there will be positive change in my life and my dream will come true. I would like to be a doctor.”

Our missionWhat we doWhere we workSearch
DonateFight with us