FORWARD works in regions with the highest prevalence of gender based violence to safeguard the rights of women and girls where they are most affected. FGM has been illegal in Tanzania since 1998 but the law remains largely unenforced and it is estimated that at least 7.9 million women and girls living in Tanzania today have undergone FGM.
The reasons for FGM are diverse and vary from region to region. In Mara region, for example, FGM is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood which means that once a girl has been cut she can be marketed for a husband, whereas in Singida region girls undergo FGM while they are still babies. Child marriage is also a frequent occurrence; in the Mara region, where one of FORWARD’s partner projects is based, as many as 2 in 5 girls are married before the age of 18 and over 8,000 girls drop out or are forced out of school each year due to pregnancy. Usually, once a girl drops out of school to get married she will never go back.
Girls can legally be married from the age of 15 with the consent of parents or guardians and girls can be married from the age of 14 with the approval of a court if they are pregnant. Across Tanzania 7% of girls are married by the age of 15 and nearly a quarter of girls aged 15-19 are pregnant or have at least one child.
Children’s Dignity Forum
Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF) is a national NGO which aims to improve the dignity and human rights of children, especially girls, in Tanzania by placing children’s legal and human rights on the public agenda. FORWARD began its partnership with CDF in 2006 when it was a still a small children’s rights organisation. Initially, we worked with CDF to build their programme management and organisational capacity and helped to integrate girls’ rights issues and girls’ empowerment approaches in their programmes.
In 2009 we carried out PEER research into the status of child marriage in Tanzania and how it affects girls. Child marriage survivors were trained to reach out to their peers in their communities who had been directly affected by child marriage. The research sought to provide a platform for girls to be heard and to use their voices to inform efforts to end child marriage. Because of this research we set up a network of girls groups. The network is made up of local groups of child brides and child mothers and is a space where they can provide support and advice to each other.
As well as being support groups the girls networks are supported with leadership skills training, education on girls’ rights and sexual and reproductive health as well as providing information on access to support services such as legal help, counselling or reproductive health services. The girls’ networks are also given training on income generating activities, provided with start-up capital for resources to set up their own businesses and supported to facilitate their income generating activities. Many of the girls are now engaged in tailoring, farming or own small restaurants and are working towards financial independence; a key stepping stone to gender equality.
FORWARD’s work with CDF put us at the forefront of safeguarding girls’ rights in Tanzania. In 2011 we established the Tanzania National Ending Child Marriage Network (TECMN), of which CDF is the chair. The network was established to link organisations working to defend the rights of children and girls to share knowledge and good practice on tackling child marriage and make ending the practice a priority in Tanzania.
We would like to thank the Sigrid Rausing Trust and Comic Relief who provide the funding which makes our work with CDF possible.
UMATI is a national Tanzanian organisation which provides sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education, information and services in Tanzania. UMATI is CDF’s partner in the girls’ group network and they support their local girls’ club in Musoma. FORWARD also worked with the Mara branch of UMATI to increase their knowledge of women and girls’ rights and build their capacity to integrate gender based programmes.
UTU Mwanamke is a local woman led organisation, born of a branch of the international organisation Women’s Dignity, which operates in the Dodoma and Singida regions of Tanzania. FORWARD has been working with UTU Mwanamke on a maternal health programme empowering girls and strengthening the ability of village health workers to meet the needs of women in rural areas. This has involved training on building links between different services and providing resources such as bicycles and mobile phones to expand the reach of the village health workers, increasing their ability to respond to emergencies and to carry out their community awareness and market advocacy against harmful practices.
FORWARD also works with Utu Mwanamke on obstetric fistula rehabilitation programme. Having identified that treatment was available for obstetric fistula, we noted a gap in programmes which supported women post-treatment. Obstetric fistula has severe social consequences for the women who feel shame and experience social stigma due to this disability of which they often do not understand the cause. Our programme aims to remedy this by providing post-treatment rehabilitation programmes which build confidence, provide leadership training and training in income generating skills. The women then go on into their communities to act as fistula champions, supporting other women affected by fistula and providing a support network for survivors.
“The project has bought about some changes like girls to be valued in the society, reduction of incidences of early marriages, childhood pregnancies, FGM and poverty through entrepreneurship. [..] I am waiting to join the college and I am doing small business of selling vegetables.”
Member of the UMATI Girls Network
For more information about women and girls in Tanzania, in their own words, you can read our research: Voices of Child Brides and Child Mothers in Tanzania: A PEER Report on Child Marriage and “Do not hide yourselves, you are not cursed”: A PEER Study on Obstetric Fistula, Mpwapwa, Dodoma, Tanzania.
Facts + Figures
Prevalence of FGM: 15% of girls and women have undergone FGM (UNICEF 2013)
Campaign against FGM: 92% of women and girls believe FGM should end (UNICEF 2013)
Girls aged 15-19 are three times less likely to have been cut than women 45-49 (UNICEF 2013)
Name of FGM: Kutairi, kutairi was ichana
Legal status of FGM: FGM has been illegal since 1998
Prevalence of child marriage: 7% of girls are married by the age of 15, and 37% by the age of 18 (UNICEF 2012)
Legal status of child marriage: It is illegal to marry under the age of 18 but you can marry from 16 with parental consent
Maternal mortality ratio: 410 per 100,000 live births (WHO 2013)
Prevalence of fistula: approximately 2,500–3,000 new cases of fistula are estimated to occur each year (Raassen, 2005)
Prevalence of GBV: 33% of women in Tanzania have experienced physical violence from a partner (UN Women 2011-12)
23% of women in Tanzania have experienced sexual violence from a partner (UN Women 2011-12)
Gender Inequality Index: 159 of 187 countries (UNDP, 2013)