Protection for 451 Kuria girls against FGM

February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Many girls in sub-Sahara Africa grow up knowing that FGM is their foreland. FGM has lifelong repercussions for the women and girls who underwent it. It is not only a breach of the law, but a violence of their rights. That is why Terre des Hommes Netherlands stands up for these girls, specifically for girls in the Kuria community in Northern Tanzania. In the just concluded ‘cutting season’, 451 Kuria girls have been protected against FGM through the rescue centre of our partner ATFGM.

Child abuse

In total 487 persons stayed in the ATFGM shelter during the Kuria cutting season, which started mid November and lasted until the end of December: 457 girls, 29 boys and 1 adult female, an ex-circumciser. In addition to the 451 girls finding refuge from FGM, 6 girls came to the centre after they had been raped or defiled. The former circumciser had to go into hiding as she was receiving serious dead threats from her community, trying to push her back into cutting.

Not only girls

It is not only girls who stayed in the shelter during the cutting season. They were joined by 29 boys, who had opted to undergo a safe circumcision under medical supervision in a health clinic. According to traditional Kuria, their decision displays cowardice and they cannot be considered as real men. The 29 boys were extreme cases who as a result were outcasted by their families. One of them had alerted ATFGM as his two younger sisters were about to be mutilated, and all three of them were rescued. In response, the boy immediately received a dead threat from their mother, meaning he had to find safety in the shelter as well.

Girls’ bodies should be respected and not mutilated. I am so happy that my sisters got rescued just in time.

Mbusiro (16 years), alerted partner ATFGM when his younger sisters were about to be mutilated, enabling them to rescue the girls on time

Aftermath

Once the cutting season was over, most who stayed in the shelter were able to go back home again and resume their normal lives. Partner ATFGM played an important mediating and supervising role, reconciling the girls with their families and ensuring they will be taken back to school and not to the mutilator. This is a meticulous and time consuming process, and 21 girls are still waiting to be reintegrated. Parents and caregivers need to sign an agreement, pledging to protect their girls and not to mutilate them. For four girls it turned out that preparations to nonetheless circumcise them had been made by their families, and they were taken back to the shelter instead of returned to their parents. Six other girls have been rejected by their families and will not be able to go back home; for them ATFGM has found safe spaces in boarding schools elsewhere in Tanzania.

About the Kuria community

The Kuria people are one of the few communities in Tanzania that consider FGM as a standard practise and a necessary rite of passage from girl into womanhood. Tanzania has a population of 55 million people, around 700,000 of them are Kuria females. Whereas the prevalence of FGM in the whole of Tanzania is 10% among women aged 15-49 years, it is 98% for Kuria women in the same age group. Approximately 60% of Kuria girls aged 9 to 17 years has been mutilated. Together with our partner ATFGM, Terre des Hommes Netherlands has been able to protect thousands of Kuria girls in the last 10 years from being cut.

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