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Welcome to the blog of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Northampton. This will keep you up to date with both student and staff activities.

The Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences includes staff with interests in biological sciences, conservation, ecology, environmental sciences, environmental statistics, geography and waste management. We offer a range of degree programmes and have a number of postgraduate research students. For more information about studying with us please visit http://www.northampton.ac.uk/.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Geography students learn about the challenging issues surrounding Female Genital Mutilation


Dr Kevin Cook reports on a recent class about the challenging issues surrounding Female Genital Mutilation...

As I move towards the end of my second year module on Geography and Development, I have the opportunity to deal with some of the more challenging issues that face the world. I wanted to try to cover the complex issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) but was keenly aware of my limited understanding of the issues involved and wanted to provide a view from the Global South delivered by ‘practitioners’ working in the field.

I had heard about the excellent work of the UK charity Tanzania Development Trust (TDS) and knew that they worked with communities on FGM. I contacted them and Janet Chapman, Campaigns Manager and Project Officer, kindly offered to set up a Skype session with my students. We linked up with Egle Marija Ramanauskaite in London and Rhobi Samwelli, the TDS representative in the Mara Region in Tanzania.
Tanzania Development Trust logo
The twin highlights of the session were being able to talk directly, via Skype, with Rhobi Samwelli. Rhobi manages a safe house at Mugumu in Mara region for young women who wish to escape the horrors of FGM. The UK students were able to ask Rhobi detailed questions on FGM; questions that I would have been unable to answer.

The second highlight of the session was being able to take part in the online mapping project that Janet is looking after. One of the many problems facing young girls who wish to avoid being cut, is to find their way to the TDS funded safe house at Mugumu. There are no maps to guide them and Janet is using the mapping software package, Openstreetmap, accessible online and on phones.


Students were allocated a small un-mapped square and it soon became a competition to see who could identify the most buildings, roads and paths from the satellite images and transfer them to the base map. Their efforts will be confirmed on the ground later.

Over 900 online volunteers and 199 local mappers are now involved in the project – make that 925 with the University of Northampton students added. They have mapped an area of 14,248 square kilometres and added 5 towns and 169 villages and hamlets, 42,128 km of roads and tracks and 700,000 buildings. Countrywide the project has added 12,294 schools and 162 clinics.

Having better maps helped prevent 2257 girls from being cut in the 2016-17 season. However change is a slow process. 1076 girls were still cut, down from 3700 the previous year and 4 girls died, down from 12 last year.

Many thanks to everyone who made this session possible and especially to Janet, Egle, Rhobi and the GEO2006 students.

Anyone wanting to get involved in this work should contact Janet at j.chapman@tanzdevtrust.org

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