"No girl should suffer from FGM like I did"
Meet the brave girls changing attitudes to FGM in Tanzania
On 6 February, communities around the world will be marking International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
FGM is a practice that involves partially removing the external genitalia of girls and young women.
It has no health benefits, causes physical and emotional trauma – and commonly leads to infection, infertility and even death.
Three million girls globally are at risk of FGM every year. And because it’s a traditional practice, established in communities over generations, it can be very hard to challenge.
But in countries like Tanzania, we’re working with brave girls like Margret and Beatrice*, enabling them to learn new skills and rebuild their lives after FGM – and make change happen for the next generation.
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“I experienced FGM when I was very young – I was six years old – and I have suffered a lot of pain and complications ever since.
"I remember standing in the queue on the day I was sent to be cut and when the time came, I wanted to run away. They had to hold me tight so I couldn’t escape.
"There is a connection between FGM and child marriage. Once a girl has FGM, she will be looked at as an adult, not a child. Regardless of her age she will be considered by the family as eligible for marriage.
"When I completed standard seven class my father forced me to get married. My husband was very violent and life at home was tough. Eventually I ran away to my sister. We still live together now. She has been very supportive.
"With the skills they learn, the girls on the Plan International training are able to stand on their own. They’re able to reduce the risk of violence, and it’s possible that we can encourage other girls to say no to child marriage."
“When I was 13, it was my turn to undergo FGM. I was so scared I ran away and hid for two days.
"After I was cut, my life changed. My dreams for the future were gone. I was told I had become an adult and that I needed to have a husband. I was 13 years old.
"Lots of men came to our house to propose but I didn’t want to get married so I said no. I wanted to stay in school and study. However, in secondary school I became pregnant and my family forced me to marry my boyfriend.
"Shortly after the wedding he ran away. I was left to raise our daughter by myself. I feel sad that I couldn’t finish secondary school.
"Now, because of Plan International’s training, I’m able to raise awareness in my community. I enjoy giving talks about what I have learnt because I don’t want to see other girls suffer the way I had to.
"I don’t want other girls to drop out of school because of FGM, early pregnancy and child marriage.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity