TDT is not, at present, sending money to the Mugumu Safe House.
Though illegal in Tanzania, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practised in remote areas far from the police, and often only discovered at an antenatal check. Family loyalty is strong, and many women are unwilling to tell what their relatives have done.
TDT Local Representative Rhobi Samwelly knows only too well the pain girls go through, as she herself was a victim of FGM. Rhobi is passionate about ending the practice, and has spent many years leading a team of actors, singers and dancers into villages to educate and change attitudes towards FGM. They have had huge success, but Rhobi knew it was not enough.
At the request of the Anglican Diocese of Mara, TDT raised funds between 2014 and 2016 to fund the construction of the Mugumu Safe House and Vocational Training Centre. Support from donors was overwhelming and the Safe House and Training Centre was officially opened in February 2015. Most of the buildings were completed in 2016, and a Toyota Land Cruiser purchased, partly from funds donated by BBC listeners. Originally designed to provide a home for 40 girls, up to 500 girls were directly saved from FGM across three ‘cutting seasons’, and others by outreach work in villages.
Attached to the Safe House is a vocational training centre, designed to enable girls to learn computer technology, and more traditional skills such as tailoring. The aim is that when they leave they will be well set up to earn their own living. Staffing of the Safe House was to include a matron, social worker and security guard, assisted by local volunteers.
TDT is not, at present, sending money to the Mugumu Safe House, but you can still help in the fight against FGM, gender-based violence (GBV) and child marriage.
Since the appointment of a new Bishop of Mara in August 2016, TDT has had concerns about aspects of Diocesan policy and practice for the Mugumu Safe House, and an apparent reduced commitment to combatting FGM. The sad death of a girl at the Safe House has also raised concerns over safeguarding issues.
Internationally respected anti-FGM activist Rhobi Samwelly is no longer at the Safe House, and has resigned from the employment of the Diocese of Mara.
TDT has made many efforts to reach agreement with the Bishop and Diocese about the management of the Safe House, also involving other local agencies. These efforts have so far been without success, but we still hope that agreement can be reached.
In order to give donors the opportunity to continue to support work against FGM, child marriage and other GBV in Tanzania, TDT has created a new Girls’ Right Fund (GRF).
The GRF is open to applications from organisations combatting FGM, forced early marriage and GBV. Grants may be used to support staffing, outreach work, and temporary shelter and food for girls at risk, and allow them to continue their education instead of being subjected to FGM and married against their will.
The GRF has made its first grant, to Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania. This is an NGO set up by former Mugumu Safe House director Rhobi Samwelly, which has opened a safe house in Butiama, to protect girls from the threat of FGM.
Further Background Notes
The Safe House project, begun in in January 2014, was to build a Safe House and Vocational Training Centre in Mugumu, Serengeti District of Mara Region. It was the largest project ever undertaken by TDT. It was funded by a special Appeal so as not to distort TDT’s usual programme of grant making with project partners. Funds were generously provided by many organisations, Trusts, BTS members and individuals who have no connection with BTS or TDT but have read about the project on the internet or Facebook or heard the radio programmes of Linda Pressly, or found the project on Global Giving.
The Safe House was needed because Mara region is one of the few in Tanzania where Female Genital Mutilation is widely practised, with more than half of all girls being at risk.
The Safe House is part of a wider campaign against FGM and Gender Based Violence. The Project Leader, Rhobi Samwelly, takes groups of singers, dancers and musicians into remote villages to campaign against FGM and this changing attitudes. The project was extremely successful: in addition to the buildings, a new 10 seater 4WD drive vehicle was purchased to assist in the rescue of girls. In total, approximately £165,000 was sent to the Safe House.
The generosity of Christchurch, Morningside Edinburgh and DAAT secured the post of a social worker at the Safe House. The first social worker, Sophia Mchomvu worked voluntarily alongside Rhobi during the 2014-15 Cutting Season. She was very successful and a key member of staff, liaising with the girls’ families and the police.
Two posts of Teacher in Charge and Legal Assistant were funded by donation from 2 BTS members. The teaching at the VTC had been subject to criticism by TDT Project Officers, and addressed by the new teaching post. The Legal Assistant supported the Safe House with difficult cases not only of girls escaping FGM but also of women experiencing Gender Based Violence or forced early marriage. A new appointment of Teacher in Charge was made in April 2016.