A roadway to Zero FGM in pastoral communities in Tanzania

FGM is highly prevalent in many Maasai pastoral communities. Neema gives her perspective on the reasons behind this, and what can be done to work towards zero FGM.

I was raised and grew up in the Maasai pastoral community in Tanzania. Since I was little I was taught to follow and adhere to my community’s culture and value it with my whole heart, despite of it being harmful or not.

When I was little child I never understood that there are common practices which my community practiced that affect the girl child. I came to understand it when I was at school when my science teacher taught me about the FGM and its impacts on women & girls. I was puzzled because I never knew that FGM is a harmful traditional practice and yet conducted in my culture

FGM in Masaai pastorial communities

When I was back home I asked my parents about FGM and they answered me it is our culture and we must value it and adhere to it. They also stressed that you if have not undergone FGM, you will be regarded as a child despite your age. You will be stigmatized by your fellow community members and they will make fun of you. Therefore FGM was a way of recognizing a girl child’s transition into womanhood.

Why FGM still a problem?

Various efforts have been made by the government and stakeholders but still the problem is there. A Maasai pastoral community is strongly bounded to its culture, so disregarding these practices is very difficult.

You may find a public leader from Maasai community conducting FGM on his or her daughters, despite the fact that he/she knew the impacts of FGM. All these show the strength by which Maasai communities are bounded to its culture. Pastoral people are aware that FGM in Tanzania is a crime, which is why it is currently practiced secretly.

Currently FGM in pastoral community is conducted to a girl child of between the age of 1 year to 5 years, unlike previously where it was conducted to the girl child between the age of 9 – 15 years. Unfortunately, currently the ones who are defending FGM are primarily women. If you talk to them they seem to understand you, but when you give them your back they are supporting the practice.

What should we do?

Despite the fact that pastoral communities are strongly bounded to their culture we should not be discouraged with that. FGM in pastoral community involved with culture and therefore it needs time and persistence for people to understand and stop it.

Education is also way for addressing the FGM in pastoral community. If the level of education is higher, it will be easier to that society to understand and do away with some harmful traditional practices.

Involving young people in this battle against FGM is what I highly recommend because if the young people understand well the impacts of FGM to a girl child they will not perform it on their own children – the young people of today are the mothers and fathers of tomorrow.

This blog is part of our #WhyZeroFGM series marking Zero Tolerance to FGM Day.