Terre des Hommes logo
DonateFight with us

Fight with us

Become a donorAs a partnerDonate your goods

Tabitha: “I will empower other girls who have undergone FGM to find their confidence and voices.”

October 16th, 2023

17-year old Tabitha* lives in a village in Tanzania. In the midst of the cutting season, she became a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM). She found refuge in a rescue shelter, where she not only received essential counselling and psychosocial support but was also provided with much-needed medical assistance. Today, she cherishes the moments spent playing and singing with friends, all while mastering design and tailoring and learning other skills crucial for a brighter future.

Tabitha working on a design
Tabitha working on a design

Life at home

Tabitha*, 17 years old, lives with her mother and five siblings in a village in Tanzania. She lost her father in 2012 when he succumbed to Malaria. Later on, her mother married another man. Her mother is the sole provider for her family. She is a small-scale farmer, earning approximately 7 euros per month from the sale of cassava and maize that she plants and harvests. 

Tabitha and her family live in a small compound with three structures; one built with sticks and iron sheets, and the others built with mud and grass. There is a small structure, distant from the main houses, which they use as a toilet. The family fetches water from a borehole, about 1.6 kilometres from their home. 

Growing up, Tabitha and her entire family lived a hard life of poverty, and they hardly managed to get any food to eat. The food they had been receiving was through the assistance of the sisters from Daughters of Charity. She never attended school and her parents could not afford to send her to school. Whenever anyone in the family got sick, their mother would use herbs to try and cure their illnesses. She would take them to a nearby pharmacy only when their condition worsened. 

Tabitha normally had porridge for breakfast. On most days, she had only one meal and sometimes she would have nothing to eat. Following the death of her first husband in 2012, Tabitha’s mother sold a piece of their land so that she could get food and basic needs for the entire family. Unfortunately, the situation did not change much as the family continued struggling to make ends meet.

Threat of FGM

Tabitha lived a life of fear back home, with the threat of FGM ever present. One day in December 2020 at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, and when all schools were closed, she ran away from home to seek refuge in a rescue shelter since it was the cutting season. “I was always afraid at home, knowing that one day I might be cut. Then I decided to run away from home for a while, and wait for the cutting season to pass,” she said. 

Later on, after that cutting season was over, she was reintegrated back to her family.  However, she never imagined that her stepfather would have her cut during the cutting season in April 2021. “When I returned home, I thought the threat was no more. One day in April 2021, my worst fears came to pass when I was grabbed by my family and forcefully mutilated,” she added. Her step father had her mutilated so that she could be married off soon after. After the incident, Tabitha lost all hope and had nowhere to turn to. Feeling unsafe and unsecure, she decided to run away from home towards the rescue shelter for support.  

Saved and assisted

Tabitha was taken to the rescue shelter by her brother who learned about it during the awareness sessions and child rights clubs formed in schools. After acquiring knowledge on the effects of FGM, he immediately went to rescue his sister because he already knew that she had been mutilated.

At the shelter, Tabitha was received and stayed there for a while as she underwent counselling and psychosocial support. Through the GIVE Tanzania 2 project, Tabitha was provided with medical support, check-ups and treatments, as well as legal support. She was sensitised to know her rights, and she has also been supported in her education through provision of school materials such as pens, a school bag, shoes, and school fees.  

In April 2023, Tabitha was enrolled at the vocational training centre. She took a design and tailoring course, which she is studying at the school. “Before joining the project, I had lost all hope in life since I always feared for my life and the risk of FGM was always there. I was cut. I felt so lost, destroyed and became very bitter,” she said. 

Regained confidence

Now, Tabitha wakes up every day and goes to school. Before, Tabitha could not speak with anyone but nowadays she talks with everybody. She found new friends and she can now openly and confidently express herself. At school, she learns sign language in order to communicate with other children with disabilities, who are unable to talk. 

“If I had not had this opportunity to learn tailoring, I would have felt lost and distraught for a long time,” says a joyful Tabitha, “This assistance is more helpful to me as in previous times some women came and wanted to marry me off, but after being enrolled in school, I have not been under this pressure any more. That matter is over.” 

Cherished moments

Tabitha’s life has changed. She said, ”I have found friends and teachers who have really helped me. I have been able to open up more. Before, I could not speak to anyone at all. I did not know how to read and write. I was not so good at counting. Now, I learn dress design skills and I can read and write well. I can do basic maths, and I have also learned sign language to better communicate with children who are unable to speak or hear.”

Tabitha’s favourite hobby is playing with her friends. “I really enjoy playing and singing with my friends,” she added.

Hope for the future

Speaking about her future, Tabitha explained, “I would like to become a professional designer so that I can design really nice clothes for people. Through that, I will empower other girls who have undergone FGM to find their confidence and voices once again.”  

Our missionWhat we doWhere we workSearch
DonateFight with us