Across East Africa, young girls are faced with an unthinkable choices like that of Zawadi: Agree to be mutilated or save herself and escape, knowing that her father will beat her mother terribly because she supported her daughter’s decision to run away.

Across East Africa, young girls are faced with an unthinkable choices like that of Zawadi: Agree to be mutilated or save herself and escape, knowing that her father will beat her mother terribly because she supported her daughter’s decision to run away.

 Rhobi Samwelly (center with black headscarf) has saved to date more than 600 girls from FGM and child marriage.

Rhobi Samwelly (center with black headscarf) has saved to date more than 600 girls from FGM and child marriage.

In the Western Serengeti district of Northern Tanzania, powerful human rights activist Rhobi Samwelly has created the non-profit organization Hope for Girls and Women (“Hope”) to protect girls from the ancient tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) and the endemic practices of child marriage and gender-based violence (GBV). Through HOPE, Rhobie has established a Safe House to which girls can run when it comes their time to be “cut” (the “cutting season” is held once a year in December during the school holidays). While FGM is illegal in the Tanzanian constitution, customary “law” often prevails in rural areas where mutilated girls command twice the bride price in cows as uncut girls, giving families not only a social incentive (cut girls are believed to be more “clean” and well behaved) but a financial one as well.

At HOPE’s Safe Houses, the girls receive food, lodging, vocational training and, if possible, they are sent to school. This is where Unite comes in. Our Foundation has granted funds to HOPE to secure books, uniforms and necessary school supplies for the girls to attend local primary and secondary schools, and in October 2018 our founder Anne Wells, board member Debbie Wiley, advisor Josephine Brunoski, RN, and friends of Unite Lisa Lawrence and Tyler Duer will visit Rhobie’s Hope Center in Mgumu to interview girls who have been screened as potential candidates for our rigorous Unite Scholars Program. We are impressed with the courage, self-respect and life force of these young girls who have chosen to run for the lives to an uncertain future in which it is likely be ostracized forever from their parents, families and communities.

Rhobie’s work with HOPE has been recently featured in the award-winning documentary film The Name Of Your Daughter, directed by Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker Giselle Portenier. The Name Of Your Daughter premiered to at the prestigious CPH:DOX documentary film festival in Copenhagen in March 2018. Since then the film, which features terrifying stories of girls as young as eight bleeding to death during the cutting season, has received the jury prize for Best Canadian Feature Documentary at NorthWestFest, won an Impact Docs Award of Excellence, and has received nominations for best editing and best original music score.

Rhobi, who is herself a survivor of FGM, writes about the film: “My dream is to save girls from being cut, and I will never stop until FGM is history in my community. This film is very very important because it will help raise awareness not just in our community, but in the district and even in other countries that are receiving African people who have the same tradition of cutting. It may help make our people change. It will also give our girls a voice, people will be able to hear the children, because they’ve never been heard before.” (www.inthenameofyourdaughterfilm.com).

#endFGM

NOTE: All photos on this page are from the documentary film “In The Name of Your Daughter.” For more information, visit www.inthenameofyourdaughterfilm.com.