Search This Blog

Monday, March 7, 2011

Maasai join anti-FGM campaign

March 7, 2011
The Citizen
Paskal Mbunga

Mkinga. Circumcision and excision are two ancient traditions which have been practiced globally for centuries. In Tanzania, the later is on the verge of eradication despite the presence of a few tribes that still cherish it. According to medical practitioners, circumcision has proved to be the safest prevention to health hazards in regards to sexual transmitted diseases.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the applied name of the excision that has been common in the central and northern regions. Due to its harm to the victims, the practice has encountered wide protests worldwide. Activists, humanitarian groups and non-governmental organizations worldwide are now at war to eradicate it. Despite efforts to put to light the disastrous effects of the tradition, there are few tribes that refuse to let the FGM die.
Medical officers say wounds inflicted after excision never get healed completely, for when the girl delivers the wounds open afresh and hence making her bleed profusely. According to tribal communities engaged in the practice, excision is believed to reduces sexual desire.

The team of journalists who visited the Maaasai community at Horohoro , reportedly a hardcore in preserving their traditional values, including excision. Salome Sinjore, 45, a married mother of four admitted to have undergone the traditional ritual when aged 18, an age bigger than was usual because of schooling. “Had I not been enrolled in primary school, the excision on me would have been performed earlier, perhaps even at 10 years of age,” she said. She said that immediately after completing primary education, she underwent the traditional ritual and got married. Salome disclosed that excision accompanies a lot of agony with untold pains including bleeding. “It is a Maasai woman pride, a sign of being ready to be married and join the elderly group – a most respected cadre among the Maasai community,” she revealed. For the parents, Salome said, it gives them twice fold advantages. They are going to receive dowry, ranging from four to six cows. “It raises your respect in the community that you have a daughter who has fulfilled the traditional ritual, but also you are elevated to the elderly group,” she explained.

Theresia Salome (60), a Maasai elder and practitioner (ngariba) from Sarage village, is now against the role she had played for the past 15 years before giving up the profession four years back. Apart from denying that the practice is still on the increase, Theresia acknowledged that the practice had brought more harm than pride to the both parties. She narrated how on several occasions her customers had fallen unconsciousness after she had administered the operation. She said”. The operation is done without the use of anaethesia. The victim is therefore subjected to untold pains including blood poisoning, hemorrhage and tetanus risks. “However, no girl ever died under my supervision in the ritual. But I can admit there were cases of girls fainting after heavy breeding,” she said. Theresia who inherited the profession from her mother, told The Citizen after being sensitized on the harm of the ritual practice, she had abandoned it.

Another practitioner (ngariba) who testified that she had abandoned the profession once and for good is a 55-year old Salome Luka who resides at Sarage,a border village, She said the FGM has been a celebrated ritual among the Maasai for centuries ago. She explained that the tribal culture has deep roots in the Maasai community that no body could ever believe that one day they would be willing to abandon the tradition. “It is unbelievable that the vice is being eliminated though slowly” She said and added, “We the Maasai have a record of preserving our traditional values. But to this ritual, we say good-bye to it and thank our government for its campaign against FGM.

Another practitioner who decided to down his tools is Maria Selemani (56) who also resides in Sarage village. She had been in the practice for ten years. She said it was the government through various NGOs that helped to end the harmful practice. She paid much tribute to the Tanga based NGO against FGM, the Tanga Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practiceas Affecting the Health of Women and Children (TIAC). She said, it was TIAC through its numerous seminars and workshops staged in Mkinga district that sensitized the Maasai and other few tribes still glued to the tradition. She remembers on one occasion four years ago, TIAC educated practitioners in Mkinga District on the effects of FGM practices. “The workshop opened our ears and eyes,” recalls Maria.

However, some Maasai elders interviewed, admitted that excision is a by-gone ritual and should be abandoned once and forever. Thomas Napaiya (63) a member of a village council in Perani village in Mwakijembe division said though the Maasai are hard to abandon their traditional values, they now understand that some of the traditional customs are outdated and needed to be scrapped. “Excision should be on the top list to be discouraged”, said Thomas who is also a church elder in his area.

Michael Joseph,64, was of a different opinion when he told reporters that the century-long ritual should prevail because it depicts the Maasai cultural tradition. Said Michael”, You know having both of your children, perhaps a girl who has undergone excision or a circumcised boy, you earn that respect of entering the group of elders, a highly respected one by the Maasai community.

While the Maasai have esteemed respect to age group, the Morani have their respect from those beneath them. In the family, older ones enjoy distinguished respect among themselves. Horohoro border village leaders, Makame Kassim Mbwana, the chairman and Ali Mohamed Ngare, the secretary said the tradition is on the verge of elimination.