Tarime District – Mara Region 

Naomi (19 years old), is a married young mother with one child. Her husband is still in secondary school. Naomi dropped out of school in standard six when her parents failed to provide for her school needs. Just like every other girl in her village, Naomi underwent FGM.

Naomi and her family live in Nyabitoju Village, one of the villages in Mara Region, Tanzania. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), teenage pregnancy and child marriage are common practices in this area of Tanzania. Girls face multiple forms of violence like physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and financial violence. In some instances, these practices have led to death.

In 2017, Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF) visited Naomi’s village. In collaboration with the village council, CDF mobilized girls and young mothers to join a girls club where they were trained on life skills, entrepreneurship and the effects of FGM, child marriage and teenage pregnancy. Naomi was among the members who joined the club.

After intensive training, the club members prepared action plans aimed at mobilizing the community to end FGM and sensitizing girls to start entrepreneurship activities and joining the girls’ group. Naomi has succeeded to start and run her tailoring business where she gets income and teaches other girls tailoring activities.

I was encouraged by a village chairperson to join the club. The village chairperson told me, our group will be under CDF, the organization that fights against FGM and child marriage as well as empowers young women and girls. Since I am an FGM survivor, I was inspired to join the group of 15 members. CDF trained us on FGM, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, life skills and entrepreneurship,” said Naomi.

Naomi earns an income from the tailoring business she is currently running. “I had no source of income, I am married and my husband is in secondary school. I decided to learn tailoring from my friend. After the training, I rented a sewing machine and began to work from home. Now I have bought my own sewing machine. I rented an office and I have started a Vitenge business. I go to Sirari (border area between Kenya and Tanzania) to buy Vitenge and sell them at my office,” she said.

Naomi continues to explain, “I am grateful to CDF, now I generate my own income, and make from Tsh. 20,000/- to Tsh. 30,000/- per week. I generate a profit from the business that supports my family and I. With a part of my profit I buy more Vitenge while I use the rest to help my husband with his school needs. Now I am able to run my life without depending on anybody.”

Naomi faced a number of challenges, which pushed her to the next level. “It was a difficult journey for me, I encountered a number of challenges, including lack of capital and family issues but through commitment and working hard, I continued to thrive,” she said.

Naomi and other girls who were trained by CDF run campaigns and projects in schools and in public areas, reaching young people and elders in their village by advocating against the harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage.

 

Naomi in her tailoring office.

Naomi’s story is one among many stories of girls around Tanzania who have gone through gender-based violence but refuse to give up. Despite the embedded patriarchal system in Tanzania, girls and women persevere and continue to seek their rights and change for the better.