A group of young women in Tanzania are using sport to speak out against FGM, reports Tracy Ramsden
Dressed in their yellow and red strip, the girls in the Tarime Queens football team have an agenda that goes beyond goal scoring. In Tanzania, where female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread, sport is providing a lifeline. ‘We can send messages against FGM and child marriage in our communities through games,’ says Neema, the 18-year-old team captain. ‘And the response is really encouraging.’
Every day, 8,000 girls worldwide are subjected to FGM. Plan International UK’s campaign, For Every Brave Girl, funds grass-roots projects to use sport and business training schemes to empower young women and increase awareness of the consequences of FGM, child marriage and teenage pregnancies. Crucially, male voices have been engaged, too – boys’ team captain Bajuu, 17, has become an ambassador to educate his family, neighbours and community. He says, ‘The football tournaments and leagues with Plan International have helped raise awareness, especially for men and boys during cutting season, which is traditionally in December.’
‘After a girl is cut, she is left to walk home,’ says Beatrice, now 19, from the Mara region in Tanzania, who was cut aged 13. ‘Passing through the village, everyone knows, because they can see the blood that has stained her clothes.’
Beatrice’s story is typical of young girls in Tanzania, but thanks to the scheme, she now runs her own soap company. ‘I was able to learn the skills to make soap confidently, sell products and know the basics of customer care,’ she says. The training that the charity provides also helps to educate girls on the complications of giving birth after FGM. ‘If a girl is married before she is 18, she cannot handle the responsibilities of marriage. And when she gets pregnant, she often has children too young, which comes with life-threatening labour problems for the mother and baby,’ adds Beatrice.
Plan International UK is asking the British public to give generously to help 2,580 Brave Girls and their communities to end FGM and child marriage in Tanzania for good. Visit the Plan International UK website to donate.
For Margaret, 22, who lives in Tarime and was forced to undergo FGM aged six, the scheme has empowered her to speak up on behalf of younger women. ‘Recently, I talked to my father’s friend who was trying to force his daughter to get married before she was ready. It wasn’t easy, but finally the family agreed. Now, she’s a tailor earning her own money and isn’t married. She has a future.’
Join Plan International UK today For Every Brave Girl, and help end the prejudices that threaten girls’ safety – and their lives.