Monday 19 December 2022

Why Rhobi Samwelly is a symbol of courage

By Mara Online News Writer

IT is enough to say she is a brave woman. This is none other than the Director for Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania, Rhobi Samwelly, who has decided to sacrifice herself in order to defend the rights of girls and women, in a community, that still has remnants of gender discrimination practices, especially Gender Based Violence.

While implementing her plans to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Serengeti and Bunda districts, Mara Region, Rhobi was lucky to attend a nine month training at the Paris School of International Affairs in France.

During the training, she was able to make a presentation at a stakeholder’s conference of Gender and Human Rights, on how she fights GBV including FGM and child marriages.

Among the stakeholders who attended the conference were French members of Parliament, ministers and ambassadors from the European Union (EU).

This is quite an honour to a woman who hails from the Kurya community which still practices some outdated customs and traditions that humiliate and oppress women.

Obviously, Rhobi herself understands the environment surrounding such practices and the shrewdness of those perpetrating them, amid a ban by the government.

It should be clearly stated that in the local arena, there is a saying that encourages people not to shun their cultural practices. However, as a fighter, Rhobi rejected such assertion and rose to take her arsenals, which include knowledge and education and was ready to go to war. This indeed was a sacrifice on her part.

As a matter of fact, the issue here is about traditional practices, which every member of the community is expected to respect. Parents, relatives, grandparents and tribal elders do not expect anyone would even think of going against the wishes of their community and some practices are also linked to taboos.

Thus, how can someone show disrespect to the elders and their practices, would they be safe? However, bravely, Rhobi made her mind and fearlessly started the Hope organization to free girls and women from the chains of outdated traditions. Indeed, she is a gallant fighter.

According to available information, during some years of fighting, her organization was able to rescue over 3,000 girls from being subjected to FGM in Butiama and Serengeti districts.

In recognition of her actions, Clouds Media awarded Rhobi the ‘Queen of Strength’ popular as Malkia wa Nguvu in 2019, only two years after the inception of the organization.

Meanwhile, Rhobi was also awarded with the Marianne Human Rights Defenders while she was studying in Paris.

We may now ourselves, what moral lessons does the Kurya community learn from Rhobi’s training in France? Definitely, she will tell them that there is no FGM nor child marriages in that country. Women and men, both have equal voices to decide their own destiny. If a woman wants to get married or not, that is up to her. To get married at her teens cuts short her dream of what she wants to do in future.

Also, getting married as a child, makes a girl dependent and this creates unnecessary conflicts in the marriage. Apart from getting equal opportunity with men, women also attend school and learn subjects of their choice. No harassment. They can take part in all social and economic activities and that is what Rhobi is fighiting for girls and women in her home districts.

Of course Rhobi will have another field work of explaining what she has been doing in Paris and some people will definitely demand to be shown news in pictures, to learn more about that country.

Most important however, is the outcome of her activities which has inspired many of the girls she has rescued from the danger of being subjected to FGM. It is heartening to note that even the girls targeted by FGM perpetrators do not support this tradition.

The girls have shown it while welcoming her from France. One of them Neema Chacha who fled her home for fear of being targeted for FGM expressed her happiness by praying to God for Rhobi, to continue the fight and help as many girls as possible.

“We love her so much. She is our mother. We are so happy to see her back home from France. May God grant her a long life so she may be able to help oppressed girls all over the world,” says Neema.

It is thus enough to tell Rhobi: “Welcome home to continue the fight.” It also is high time for the Kurya to say, no more FGM and enough is enough.

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