Child Marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are among the challenges that face many girls in Maasai communities in Arusha Region. A great number of Maasai girls are affected by these harmful traditional practices which hinder them from achieving their dreams of learning in advancing academically.
Different stakeholders in collaboration with the Government both at the National and local levels have been taking various steps to ensure that communities are aware of the oppressive harmful practices so that attitude towards the girl child is changed and she is empowered.
The Center for Women and Children Development (CWCD) with funding from the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) is implementing a girl protection intervention in Arusha. In advocating for girls rights, multifaceted approaches were used by the organization. Among the approaches is working with school teachers in the formulation of student school clubs. The clubs are aimed at bringing together Maasai girls or girls from pastoral communities to empower them, educating them on the realization of the importance of education, and ensure they complete their schooling safely.
At Elkiding’a Secondary School in Arusha Municipality, a Students’ Club has been established, and Teacher John Mduma, one of the patrons of the club, says the school is fortunate to get the CWCD project for Maasai girls because they face many challenges such as FGM, early pregnancies and child marriages.
He says through the clubs, the girls are enabled to become self-aware, value themselves, and protect themselves and others.
“Girls who are members of such clubs have inspired other girls. If they learn that one of their peers is being harassed, abused or hurt they normally report such incidences to teachers, local government leaders or village leaders or in places of worship,” says Teacher Mduma.
School clubs build Courage and confidence for the Girl child
Some of the girls who belong to the 30 member-club say that they have benefitted a lot from the club.
“I would advise that such clubs are established in every school, especially among the Maasai communities, so that girls can be taught how to defend, protect themselves and others from practices that cause girls to drop out of school ,” says Happy Loishiye, a Form III student at Elkiding’a Secondary School.
Elkiding’a Salma Zuber, a Form One student, says after joining the club, she informed her mother about her decision to join the club. She says she was happy when her mother didn’t object.
Mwalimu Emmy Matee, who is also the club’s patron, says the club has greatly helped girls at the school become courageous and confident. The clubs have increased confidence among students in reporting gender-based violence to their teachers and parents for immediate help.
CWCD work with school clubs to create a conducive environment that enables students to foster relationships with their teachers for mentorship and coaching. The approach has made students more open to their teachers on issues affecting their wellbeing at home, allowing immediate intervention in case of mistreatment which in return improves performance at school.
He observes that it is more encouraging to see that the girls at the school perform very well in their studies and that it shows that the girl child if her safety is assured, has a greater potential for performing well.
The clubs also teach the girls vegetable gardening, liquid soap processing to prepare them for self-employment after completing school. This will enable them to be self-reliant.
On challenges that the club faces, Mwalimu Emmy says sometimes parents or guardians insist on FGM or child marriages while teachers want to help and save the girls. These parents think that the teachers are interfering with their cultural beliefs and their affairs.
Ms Hindu Mbwego, the CWCD Director, is of the opinion that the project is a success as it has greatly reduced GBV cases, formed student clubs that help girls and is working closely with LGAs to ensure girls safety. The Local government has joined hands with the Non-Government Organizations collaborating with CWCD to abolish oppressive cultural practices against girl children
The Children Act number 21 (2009), aims at strengthening the protection of children’ rights in Tanzania Mainland.
Under this Act, it is stipulated that the child has the right to:
Advocating against violence against women is a strategic priority for FCS. FCS works in 15 regions in Tanzania to address violence against women and children. In 2019, FCS granted over TZS 1 billion to eliminate gender-based violence and harmful practices.