The right to decide what happens to your own body is not something that we give much thought in Western world democracies. That’s just how it is. This is not always the case in Tanzania. The film ‘In the name of your daughter’ scrutinizes the issue of female genital mutilation through those dedicating their lives to fight against it.
The horror of female genital mutilation is still a daily issue in Tanzania, although the law forbids it. There are 200 million FGM survivors globally, and each year 3.5 million girls are at risk of FGM. 6% of all women alive in the world today have gone through genital mutilation. In the Mara region of Northern Tanzania, 38% of girls 15-19 years old have been subjected to FGM The director of the film Giselle Portenier wished to raise awareness about this issu, when she chose to make the film ‘In the name of your daughter’.
“The posttraumatic stress and the physical ramifications are huge. It has to stop. I hope that it will not only be a film, but an important and powerful tool for change. I want to reach every village in Tanzania and every village in Kenya, where they speak Swahili, where this is being practiced and I am hoping to be able to use the film to persuade them to stop.”
In the strongly moving film we meet Rhobi Samwelly, who is the leader of a safe house in Tanzania. When Rhobi was a young girl facing this ritual, there was nowhere for her to run. She was cut against her will and almost lost her life: “You don’t have any chance to do anything. You have to obey and agree to be cut. It’s your tradition”.
Therefore she chose to start the safehouse, to make sure that young girls in the same position as her, have somewhere to go.
Two young girls, who have managed to escape this fate and stayed at the safehouse, are Neema Chacha and Rosie Makori, who together with Rhobi Samwelly are visiting Copenhagen during CPH:DOX in the hope that their voices will be heard. Both of the girls risked everything, especially their relationship to their families, by running away. 12-year-old Neema says, “I will help stopping female genital mutilation in my community and others by raising my voice about what happened to me. Female genital mutilation has effects on girls for the rest of their lives and that’s why I ran away before they could do it to me”. Both of the girls wish to work with this issue in their adult life. Neema wants to become a lawyer, specializing in protecting young girls’ rights. Rosie wants to be a doctor in Tanzania.
One of the biggest challenges with this mission is that female genital mutilation has a very strong economic basis in the practicing countries. The cutter gets payed, the village chief gets a commission from the cutter, girls who are cut command twice the bridal price in cows as uncut girls. The girls are simply seen as property without the ability to make decisions on their own about education, marriage or even their own body. Rhobi Samwelly says that a lot of people in her community don’t like the safehouse: “They feel like we are robbing them from their cows. Parents want to benefit from their daughters by marrying them off at a young age for some cows”.