A tiny delegation of well educated women; modest and intelligent will be welcomed into one of the most powerful rooms in the northern hemisphere. First is Mrs Rhobi Samwelly, mother of four kids, hailing from Butiama, Mara, Tanzania.
Mrs Rhobi Samwelly with High Commissioner's wife to the UK, Mrs Joyce Kallaghe at the fund raising evening, Central Hall, Westminster, last week.
Butiama is legendary. Home of father of the nation, the late Mwalimu Nyerere. His widow, Mama Maria, is a staunch supporter of the cause and reason that has sent Mrs Rhobi Samwelly trekking to London. By her side, Ann-Marie Wilson, Executive Director of 28 Too Many, a London charity working to end female genital mutilation, i.e. FGM. Third shall be Comfort Momoh, a mid wife treating women affected by FGM at Guy’s Hospital, London.
The three are part of a large, complex chain of events and campaigns, across the world.
One of the events was steered by members of the Tanzania Development Trust Fund and British Tanzania Society - BTs, Janet Chapman, Petronella Mwakatuma and Jonathan Pace with other colleagues.
Janet Chapman with Jonathan Pace...who have dedicated alot of time and effort to the fundraising events...
In May and now October (2nd and 4th), fundraising concerts were held here in London to help build a safe house for young girls fleeing FGM in Mugumu, Mara.
We spoke about Mara, in this column, last Friday.
The topic was not FGM, but how certain men are violent to wives and female partners. According to local NGOs, TAMWA (Tanzanian women media association) and Gender Based Violence research, women are victims of at least 72 percent brutal cases in Mara. TAMWA claims “wife beating in marriages is another big gender based violence issue” and in rural areas women “have been beaten and abused to the extent of becoming disabled.”
32 year old house wife, Mrs Neema Wambura (pictured above) – who had boiling water thrown onto her hand and chest, was the focus. As I was interviewing Mrs Rhobi Samwelly, she confirmed meeting Mrs Wambura and assisting her to acquire medical treatment. Mrs Samwelly’s many tasks stick her in right in the navel of these suffering women in her diocese.
Kuriya by tribe, she is a representative of the Anglican Diocese and works in enlightening hazards and cruelties of gender violence and FGM. The previous week, this level headed lady spoke at both FGM Mugumu safe house fundraising events in London.
She will be going to the UK parliament house, Thatcher Room, to a panel discussion on FGM chaired by one of the most respected Members of Parliament, Hon Jeremy Lefroy Stafford constituency.
A crucial meeting. Closing remarks are expected from Lynne Featherstone –Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development at DFID.
What is DFID?
A statement issued by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), in 2013, said a program worth 35 million pounds aims to reduce FGM by at least 30 percent in the next five years. This shall “support work to end FGM in fifteen countries directly within local communities, governments, traditional leaders and funding research.”
Meeting Mrs Samwelly was an eye opener. She and other anti FGM activists, e.g. Ann Marie- Wilson remind us that: every ten seconds a girl is cut across the world.
A serious reminder.
Ann-Marie Wilson explains that although the usual cutting age is between eight to fourteen years, girls as young as two years old are also being chopped.
Usually, Mrs Samwelly explained, FGM season in the Serengeti region is November and December. Those who die, (there are many unreported deaths), are thrown in the bushes to be eaten by wild animals. Families are told to keep quiet. “This is because death from FGM is considered an embarrassment. Bad luck,” Rhobi goes on casually, “when a mother loses a daughter she is forbidden from grieving. Don’t cry. Don’t tell nobody. It is considered a failure.”
The married, mother of four, started as project officer in 2000. Seven years later she was promoted to Project Co-ordinator representing interests of the church and community. This includes, for example, leading projects to raise money and resources in agricultural activities, e.g. grain produce. Through her own efforts she managed to gain a Bachelors Degree in Business Admn from the Open University in 2012.
Londoner, psychologist Ann- Marie Wilson not only runs the organisation 28 Too Many. She is passionate. During her speech at the fundraising, she said she decided to give up her job and dedicate helping stop FGM.
28 Too Many has a website with multiple functions including a call for those distressed by FGM, research regarding FGM across the world. Plus articles. Pictures. And blogs.
Ann-Marie, Comfort and Rhobi are part of those bothered and concerned. Matching forward. Trying. At least three million girls are cut each year from 29 countries, including Tanzania. All of us men, boys, women and girls should join in the campaign.
In June, United Nations, Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, insisted that FGM has no healthy benefits. It only generates “profoundly damaging, irreversible and life-long physical damage” and increases “the risk of neo natal death for babies born to women who have survived it.”