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Give a voice to exploited children with disabilities in Tanzania

In Tanzania, many girls undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The practice is illegal, yet approximately 7.9 million women and girls in Tanzania have undergone the ritual. In Tarime district in the north, 60% of girls aged 9 to 17 have been genitally mutilated. Girls who have not yet been circumcised are at high risk of it happening before their 16th birthday. More than 1,000 girls are mutilated in Tarime every year. Girls with disabilities are easy targets. Because of their disability, children with disabilities in Tanzania are often subjected to sexual violence, such as child forced marriage, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and Female Genital Mutilation.

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Background

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of gender-based violence. It is rooted in gender inequalities and stereotypes. Mara region has strong traditional oppressive norms and values that negatively affect women and girls. These oppressive norms have hindered the sexual reproductive health rights of girls and often bring an unsafe environment for all children.

Discrimination of girls and boys with a disability is structually entrenched in the Tanzanian society. Many of them live invisibly in isolation with their relatives. They are often kept indoors, out of sight. Interaction with peers or adults in whom they could confide is limited. Stigma surrounding disability can result in dismissing their needs and rights by their families, communities and authorities.

Children with a disability are vulnerable to violence in Tanzania, especially children with albinism and those with autism. They lack access to education, child protection and medical, psychosocial, legal and other services, including reporting mechanisms.

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Problems

Children with a disability face multiple, interlinked problems in Tanzania:

Female Genital Mutiliation (FGM) and other forms of sexual exploitation

Lack of adequate protection

No or low cover for disability issues

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

Weak protection structures

Lydia Kaugi

Programme coordinator Tanzania

“A lot has been achieved in the fight against child exploitation and abuse due to negative traditional practices in Tanzania's lake zone. A lot more is needed to ensure that children develop themselves in a safe environment free from all forms of child exploitation.”

Goals

Our overall objective is to amplify voices of children with a disability in Mara region. We aim to enable them to access inclusive child protection services by:

Quality services

National disability structures

Government structures to protect children

Approach

The project will be implemented with the Association for Termination of Female Genital Mutilation (ATFGM) in close cooperation with SHIVYAWATA (the federation of people with disabilities) and the department of Social Welfare. In our holistic approach, we will collaborate with the Government of Tanzania and bring together other CSOs and child champions to advocate for children with a disability.

To give exploited children with a disability a voice in northern Tanzania, our approach includes the following activities:

With children with a disability

With local structures in Tarime district

With the government

Partner

Terre des Hommes Netherlands is partners with ATFGM to stop FGM and child marriage in the Kuria community in Tanzania.

The Association for the Termination of Female Genital Mutilation (ATFGM) was established in response to the concerns of several parents of the KurIa community who did not want their daughters to be mutilated. Girls themselves came to ask for protection as well, since they did not want to undergo the forced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). ATFGM helps to educate the community, promotes respect of human dignity and human rights, with the ultimate goal to, together with the government, bring positive change and eradicate FGM.

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