Ending Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage in Tanzania
Liz Mach was born and raised in Minnesota. After receiving her nursing degree, she joined the newly formed Maryknoll Catholic lay mission program and was sent to Tanzania, where she has spent forty years working in maternal and child health care, and advocating for the rights of women and girls in eastern Africa. She presently works in the Catholic Diocese of Musoma's Planning and Development Directorate, where she coordinates its health, education and social services. The directorate has a strong program to end all forms of gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, child marriages and sex trafficking. The diocese advocates through shelters, schooling, training seminars on legal rights of women and creation awareness.
On August 31, Maryknoll lay missioner Liz Mach spoke at the Boisi Center. Mach works alongside the Catholic Church in Tanzania to address gender-based violence. She emphatically stressed that her work was to support local initiatives, not to impose Western values on African people.
Two cultural practices in Tanzania are of great concern, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. FGM is the partial or total removal of female genitalia and is considered a rite-of-passage in many Tanzanian communities. This interferes with fertility and childbirth and can lead to other medical problems. FGM is practiced both by Muslims and Christians in parts of Tanzania and is a cultural, not a religious, practice. FGM is often a precursor to child marriage. Though FGM and child marriage both are illegal in Tanzania, the laws are difficult to enforce.
Mach noted optimistically that though the Church has encountered some backlash when fighting gender-based violence, their efforts have produced significant results. Awareness and education is leading to cultural change, and opportunities are available for young woman seeking to avoid FGM or child marriages and continue their education.
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