Lessons from an intervention on child marriage and FGM in Tanzania

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The current global attention on girls and young women presents an ideal opportunity to increase efforts to improve the human rights of girls and young women in Tanzania.

Child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) are deeply entrenched practices in many regions in Tanzania despite the country having signed numerous regional and international human rights agreements limiting or banning it. While the Tanzanian government is working towards addressing this situation, existing laws are inadequate. Millions of girls continue to be affected by and are at risk of FGM, child marriage and early motherhood. They are at risk of violence, vulnerability and lack of options.

A three-year partnership in three districts in Mara Region set out to mobilise multiple stakeholders to promote the rights of girls and young women to be safe from FGM and child marriage, and to enable them to access education. Child marriage and FGM gained national attention during the project phase, resulting in an increase in actors and actions to address these issues.

The project approach was based on the partnership and active involvement of the girls themselves, as well as stakeholders at both the local and national level, which proved instrumental to project achievements.

The lessons learnt offer insight for future intervention; particularly the need to focus actions directly at:

• empowering girls and young women themselves

• addressing community social norms

• providing services for girls and women

• advocating for a better policy environment

• ensuring project partners have the capacity and organisational systems to deliver programmes.

The project successfully instigated change at three levels.

Firstly, girls who participated in project activities developed core skills in leadership, self-confidence and economic independence.

Secondly, there has been a shift in engagement; with traditional leader breaking the taboo of silence surrounding FGM, child marriage and girls’ rights. This has brought with it the shifting of social norms.

Thirdly, organisations were able to build their own visibility, develop and provide leadership, and collaborate effectively.