In Summary
  • Excitement has arisen through a BBC creative journalist (a woman I had never heard of), whose credentials we shall soon see.

As we speak there is a big buzz across Europe, North America and (believe it or not), Mara Tanzania. Yes, Mara, not because it is the birthplace of Mwalimu Nyerere, the Father of the Nation, but as one of the regions still practising something akin to horror on our young girls.

Excitement has arisen through a BBC creative journalist (a woman I had never heard of), whose credentials we shall soon see.

She made a film.

We have for many years – through this column – highlighted the woe of female genital mutilation (FGM). We tried to elaborate the four different types of gruesome “female private parts” cutting. In 2014 we reported a series of London talks and concerts (organised by the Tanzanian Trust Fund) to raise money to finish building a safe house in Mugumu, Mara Region. The Mugumu shelter was aimed at finding solace for traumatised girls fleeing a very ancient and outmoded ritual, which claims to chastise and help “preserve fidelity...”

It’s lifelong pain for at least 200 million females in 30 countries, according to Unicef estimates in 2016. The number includes Tanzanian women from 19 regions. Although formally illegal, “the ritual” continues unabated like crocodiles eating and guzzling down wildebeest, zebras and other creatures across East African savannahs. “The cutting” season (November through to December annually) is when girls from the age of five live through fear, terror, anxiety and trepidation.

Listen to this.

Somewhere along the new film by Canadian media artist Giselle Portnier, we hear Ms Rhobi Samwelly asking her audience of mixed villagers a crucial question.

“Raise your hands if your family wanted you to get cut to get cows!”

Many hands shoot up.

And therein lays the theme of this business.

For it is a business. Parents, especially fathers (as fathers control destinies of their children in rural cultures), earn good cash from the abhorrent operation of their daughters. Cows. Cows in return for FGM and blood. Contemplate, dear reader. Blood. FGM causes severe injuries, urinary problems, shock, infertility, sexual discomfort, childbirth complications plus infections that continue leaving the young and old alike in permanent misery, even frequent deaths. Several global organisations, including the African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, European Union and the United Nations, have called for total elimination of FGM.

In the Name of Your Daughter is set to be screened at the Copenhagen Film Festival next Tuesday and Sweden on March 27, then numerous major TV channels in Finland, BBC and the rest of the developed world. All thanks to Giselle Portnier, a dedicated Canadian, award winning media artist, with at least 14 documented prizes. Speaking of a winner specialising in human rights abuse documentaries and social revealing (and healing) work. To offer an example, there is a film taking us back to the times of the Mau Mau in the early 1950s, White Terror, which reminds us how innocent Kenyan children and women were tortured, imprisoned even raped.


Congo’s Forgotten Children is about the ongoing civil strife in Central Africa. Murder in Purdah is about honour killings, whereby males in families murder females rejecting arranged marriages.

Just a few examples of Ms Portnier’s works. As you can see, she did not just appear out of nowhere like a conscience stricken NGO. She has been doing this for a long time.

And being a BBC seasoned reporter gives Ms Portnier credibility. We are not just lucky to have this self-motivated individual coming to reveal a very old affliction.

The project is 100 per cent self-voluntary. No money involved.

Early this week she told me: “I made it (the film) to make a difference, to help give young girls a voice and a future; to help the community understand that girls who are uncut will be able to make better contributions to their communities...”

In the Name of Your Daughter has already been translated into Swahili and shall eventually be beamed across grassroots Tanzania. And it is not an involvement of the filmmaker only. As pointed earlier, the Tanzanian Development Trust (TDT) in London has been heavily involved in this FGM saga for ages.

Ms Rhobi Samwelly, Mara-born, ex-victim of FGM, and now veteran campaigner, will be in Copenhagen as a guest of the March 20 screening. As we went to print, two girls, shown in the film, Neema Genga, 13, and Rose Mung’oha, 12, were expected to fly to the Scandinavian reception too.


As you can see, the struggle involves various players.

If there are any willing local sponsors out there, please help extend your hand to assist publicising the film and, subsequently, ending this useless malaise.

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