The movement of Tanzanians away from Tanzania to settle temporarily or permanently elsewhere has created sizable populations outside of our motherland. Most Tanzanians remain connected with their home-town communities supporting families, friends or NGO's in different ways. Consequently, there are hundreds of Tanzanians living in Edinburgh who remain connected to their home-town communities and their country as sources of their identity and also in fulfillment of their commitment to the well-being of their people. Tanzanians Diaspora are a huge resource in material wealth, knowledge, social status and as change agents against harmful traditions.
One of the initiatives organized by Tanzanian Diasporas in UK is the establishment of the Dignity Alert and Research Forum (DARF). The DARF was formally launched on 24th October 2009 by HE Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar. Tanzanian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. This is one of the many events which are organized and celebrated by Tanzanians in Edinburgh to showcase their contribution, albeit in a small way, on issues of economic, social and cultural development, gender, good governance and human rights in the UK and back home.
Dignity Alert and Research Forum (DARF) is forcefully responding to the emerging problems caused by harmful customs such as child/forced marriages and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) being perceived by scholars, researchers and health professionals in the UK. In Eastern Africa one of the founder members. Dr Monica Mhoja. conducted ethnographic research in Tanzania which revealed the severe impact of these practices.
DARF is currently campaigning for the elimination of child/forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM) in Tanzania and Scotland. This is well illustrated by its partnership with the Magoke Foundation to empower children, parents and teachers on the impact of child marriage and FGM at Mtakuja P/S in Vingunguti, Dar es Salaam, as one of its pilot projects in Tanzania. It is a traditional practice believed to enhance a girl's beauty, honor, marriageability, social status and chastity.
Although the elimination of FGM was originally regarded as a mere question of health education and information, today FGM is recognised as a socio-cultural problem that is deeply rooted within the societies in which it is practiced. Thus social change is indispensable if the practice is to be ended permanently. Commitment to ending FGM is symbolic of the effort to strengthen the position of women and women's rights generally, because FGM is a form of violence against women and is a severe violation of human rights.
Organizations like DARF influences positive change and development policies for safeguarding dignity, human rights and the reproductive health of African women and young people through research, advocacy, rights-based approaches and partnering with local, national and international organizations which is very important.
Moreover, we need more organizations like DARF which are dedicated to the promotion of human rights and empowering children and women with particular reference to African girls and women in Eastern Africa.
In the opening of DARF, H.E Mwanaidi S Maajar commended the work done by Tanzania's Diaspora to campaign against FGM both in Scotland and Tanzania. She testified that because of her father's education and awareness on the impact of FGM, she was not mutilated.
This is key to highlight because not talking openly about FGM has long been a standing taboo between both sexes and among women themselves. The fact that women are now talking about FGM openly is a step forward towards success. It is surely a breakthrough because the issue is related to women's sexuality and it is not easy for most women.
WHO estimates the number of women and girls who have undergone FGM globally at between 100 and 140 million, with a further 3 million girls at risk annually. FGM is prominently practiced in 28 African countries including Somalia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Liberia.
There are immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees from the above countries who have settled in Scotland where DARF aims at increasing public awareness of FGM and working with the health services on the issue. The women and girls who undergo it often experience bleeding, infection, infertility and difficulties during childbirth that contribute to maternal mortality.
In summing up, it is vital to know that there have also been submissions and affirmations through scientific/medical research works that child marriage and FGM are injurious to health and that on many occasions it has resulted in the loss of lives in many nations including Tanzania. It is also on record that a lot of national, regional, non-governmental, international and global bodies have intervened to eradicate these practices but there is still a long way to go. It would seem therefore, that the panacea for the eradication of child marriage and FGM may require multiple approaches. These are developmental and good governance issues. Empirical evidence indicates that where child marriage is a significant phenomenon, girls' education is shortened, and their ability to participate in economic and social development is seriously curtailed. Statistics also show an inverse relationship between education and FGM practice (which contributes to the prevalence of child-marriage in Tanzania). According to the 1996 Demographic Health Survey, Tanzania's prevalence of FGM was 17.9%. Women who had no education had a higher prevalence (22.9%) than those who had a primary school education (16.7%) and a secondary or higher education (6.8%).
At the national level it is vital to integrate issues of child marriage and FGM into advisory services on poverty reduction strategies or to work to have national action plans to end child marriage and FGM. The issues should be integrated into the syllabuses of both primary and secondary schools as well as into training modules for community leaders and political leaders. There are best practices examples from Burkina Faso and Mauritania which could be emulated.