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Passionate teen leads fight against FGM in Tanzania

Haines Chacha addresses a gathering at the Tarime Teacher’s Training College.

Community leaders remain optimistic in the fight for gender equality in Tanzania.

For 19-year-old Haines Chacha, awareness and education helped her escape female genital mutilation (FGM), a fate faced by 38% of Tanzania’s girls. Chacha learned about the risks of FGM at a school club, which helped her gain the courage to say no to the practice seen as a rite of passage for many girls in Tanzania.

“I told my parents that FGM has health repercussions which meant I could die and they believed me and accepted my wish of not going through the ritual and they allowed me to continue with my education”, she said.

Chacha’s school club was sponsored by Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF), a not-for-profit organization that promotes children’s rights and works with vulnerable of children, families, and their communities. CDF works with political, traditional, and religious leaders to raise awareness about the health repercussions of FGM and change social norms.

“Because I am empowered in knowing my rights I could take a stand against FGM and this is also possible for other girls.” – Haines Chacha, CDF Volunteer

An Advocate for Change

Haines now champions girls’ rights and volunteers with CDF to conduct outreach activities about the impact of FGM, child marriage, and teenage pregnancy. She uses her newfound platform to advocate for those without a voice.

Although the fight against FGM often seems like an uphill task, Haines’ story inspires hope for the future.

“Minister Ummy Mwalimu: please give protection against the challenges girls face just by being girls such as being forced to undergo FGM, Child Marriages, being raped, unsafe environments on the way to school, in schools and in homes. Also parents: love and protect your daughters.” - Haines Chacha, CDF Volunteer

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Across Tanzania, girls face challenging social, economic and political barriers. According to The World Bank, “every day, girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence, and fragility.” National and international groups continue to call for the quality education of adolescent girls, as education is key to addressing complex issues like poverty, child marriage, and early pregnancy.

For these reason, The High Commission of Canada in Tanzania continues to support the work of Valerie Msoka as their Champion in the fight against Child, Early, and Forced Marriage (CEFM).

Msoka is a fierce advocate for young girls, like Haines, across Tanzania and at the 2017 celebrations for the International Day of the Girl, Msoka and Haines came together to celebrate the power of girls and work together for gender equality.

“Canada has adopted a Feminist International Assistance Policy that seeks to reduce extreme poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world. The policy recognizes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to achieving this goal.” – Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie

Haines’s story is a reminder of the power of education and inspires optimism in the fight against FGM and CEFM. Advocates for girls’ rights, like Msoka and Haines, will continue fighting for change because as the Tanzanian saying goes: “Penye Nia Pana Njia”, or, “where there is a will there is a way.”

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