» From traditional female circumciser to women’s health educator
25.11.2016 - Education Sector

From traditional female circumciser to women’s health educator

© UNESCO -Women’s Health Educator Norkiramati Kurandai

Norkiramati Kurandai worked for most of her life as a traditional female circumciser or ‘ngariba’ in Ngorongoro district, Tanzania.

She began in 1998 with the circumcision of her own child and now, aged 53, has lost count of the number of young girls in her community she performed on but thinks it is more than 100.  

After learning of a UNESCO project supporting communities to change from harmful cultural practices and undergoing training workshops, she still works with local women but as a sexual and reproductive health (SRH) educator.

Norkiramati, who is also a traditional midwife, said: “I decided to follow-up through one of my neighbours who underwent the UNESCO training and told me about health risks     associated with female genital mutilation (FGM). The sessions have been very useful to me and now I am able to help and communicate information related to sexual and reproductive health including better way of helping our young girls to adulthood rather than mutilating them.”

She says she will also use her position to educate fellow “ngaribas.”  Tanzania health statistics show that 15 per cent of the country’s female population have undergone FGM despite its being criminalized in 1998.

Community leaders use their influence to bring about change.

UNESCO launched the initiative, Empowering Girls from Pastoralists’ Community, last year in the Ngorongoro District, homeland of the Maasai people, with funding from Azerbaijan and the Swedish International Development Agency. It aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health status of adolescents and young girls in Ngorongoro through training and awareness-raising. Twice a year in the district, hundreds of girls suffer genital mutilation while others run away from their communities to avoid the ordeal.

The project engages traditional and religious leaders and healers, women’s groups and experts to use their position to address health challenges, including FGM and teenage pregnancies, facing young girls and women within the Masaai communities.

In 2015, senior Masaai traditional leaders signed and adopted the Loliondo Declaration (VIDEO) that aims at protecting women and ensuring that their rights are met.

The resolution, signed at the end of a two-day symposium organized by UNESCO Dar es Salaam, opposes traditions and practices which are harmful and affect women and adolescent girls.

"I urge my colleagues to educate the community about the effects of female genital mutilation in our community" said Chairman of the Council of Malaigwanan Ngorongoro District, Joseph Oletiripai. The declaration, due to be reviewed in December 2016, also calls on pastoralist communities to stop forcing girls into early marriages.

Last year UNESCO launched the Empowering Adolescent girls and Young Women through Education programme which aims to close the persistent gender gap in education and accelerate development.

Statistics show that education is the best cure against child marriage and that, if all women completed primary education, the number dying in childbirth could be reduced by 70 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, saving more than 100,000 lives every year.

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