Recent United Nations research shows FGM rates among women aged 15 to 49 are 10 per cent in Tanzania and 20 per cent in Kenya. The rates are significantly higher in the border areas where Ace Africa works.
There are no health benefits to FGM. It is performed on minors, a breach of their fundamental rights, and the law in both countries. It causes ill health, complications in childbirth and increases risk of new-born deaths. It reflects and entrenches deeply rooted sexual inequalities.
As part of a project to improve the education, health and wellbeing of vulnerable children in Tanzania and Kenya, Ace Africa strengthened child protection structures and trained 17 male and 23 female volunteers in gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, early childhood development, women’s empowerment, responding/reporting on cases of abuse. The volunteers became part of new Violence Against Women and Children (VAWAC) committees which dealt with 348 reported cases of abuse; 324 were addressed locally and 24 referred to court.
Sinyati is a 30-year-old woman from a single parent family. She never had the opportunity to go to school and she underwent FGM herself; she was married to a much older man when she was only 14 years. Her experience inspired her become a member of a VAWAC, to ensure that young girls in her community pursue their studies and do not repeat her experiences.
Three months after joining the committee, Sinyati heard that the local women were preparing for an FGM ceremony for two young girls. She reported the case to the VAWAC committee, who informed the village leadership. Together they intervened before the FGM event took place, its organisers were warned and instructed to report to the village office every two weeks where members of the VAWAC committee educate them on girls’ and women rights.
Sinyati now identifies girls in vulnerable situations and provides support. She explained her motivation saying that “I have had a lot of regrets in my life because no one stood up for me but I want to spend my adulthood standing up for young girls so they can pursue their life dreams and goals”.