By Waiswa Wafula
Though the knowledge she obtained from her Civics subject in class six, Neema Jacob was able to save herself and her siblings from undergoing FGM.
Then aged 12 years, Neema received constant pressure from her father, insisting her and her younger siblings undergo the cut. She gained the courage and confidence to confront her father and report the matter to the police after her civics teacher kept on telling the class that FGM and early marriages were enemies of dreams. The teacher also directed the girls to report any situations they may face to local leader or the police.
“When I threatened to take him to the police, he kept quiet for some days, but a few weeks later he would come up with the topic, especially when he got drunk, telling us that if our 12-year old neighbor’s daughter did it, we should also do it,” she says.
Later on, Neema’s father arranged the girls to be transported to their Uncle in Mukulimo Village Tanga, Tanzania, a place the girls would not know where to report the matter and have them undergo FGM. Neema and her siblings were transported in 2019 but as soon as she found out her uncle’s plans, she began convincing her younger siblings to escape but out of fear they relented.
Two days later, Neema pretended to go to the farm and disappeared from the home taking about two days to reach the Tanga-Dar es Salaam main road.
“The first day I slept in a bush after failing to cross one of the rivers which was flooded because it was raining heavily. The wild animals that passed near me were not harmful, but I shifted to another bush after I heard hyenas nearby,” she narrates.
She was able to get accommodation after telling her sad story to an elder woman that stayed around. After reports were made to the Ten-cell leader and other leaders, a Ward Executive Officer volunteered to help and took her to another uncle in Mwanza since she did not want to return to her father.
“My uncle’s wife wasn’t ready to accommodate me, so I was forced to escape, and went around people’s homes looking for a house maid’s work. One woman refused to hire me because I did not provide any address,” she says.
The woman let Neema stay the night and rushed her to “My uncle’s wife wasn’t ready to accommodate me, so I was forced to escape, and went around people’s homes looking for a house maid’s work. One woman refused to hire me because I did not provide any address,” she says. a nearby police station the next morning. The police organized her transfer to Mwanza-based NGO Wote Sawa Domestic Workers where she currently stays.
She also alerted the NGO staff of her siblings who, were rescued and are safe and sound.
“I guess my uncle postponed the exercise for fear of legal actions after I ran away, thinking that I went to the police,” says Neema.
“Neema is currently taking tailoring course while we are trying to facilitate reuniting her with her biological parents, though Neema isn’t ready,” says ‘Wote Sawa’ Empowering Officer, Ms Demitila Faustine.
Joseph Neema a 15-year-old also at Wote Sawa Domestic Workers refused to go back home in Kitavi District, after being forced into early marriages by her parents.
She was tricked into moving with her biological mother who loves with another man in Biharamulo District after she finished her primary education. Here is where she got to find out about her arranged marriage and escaped the following day to Mwanza.
“I asked good Samaritans to help me reach Mwanza where I planned to seek for help so that I can be taken to my grandparents. But while in Mwanza I met a woman who asked me if I can work for her as a maid, and I accepted the proposal,” she says.
She faced Sexual Violence from one of her boss’s younger brother a few days after she started working and reported the incident to the police. The perpetrator was arrested and Neema taken to Wote Sawa by the police. Wote Sawa now shelters her and offers Neema legal assistance concerning the ongoing case in court.
“We usually tell the children that there is no better place to stay than the original home. We reunite them with their parents, though it is usually not an easy task. It takes time because children seem to have completely lost trust, including Neema,” says Ms Demitila Faustine.
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