USP student participates in project against genital mutilation of girls

From her home in São Paulo, a student of Tourism at USP Mariana Abuhab Bialski has helped an institution in Tanzania to combat the genital mutilation of girls (FGM). She is a volunteer at Crowd2Map Tanzania , a project that since 2015 has mapped the rural area of the East African country via satellites.

This mapping allows rescue workers to find the villages where the mutilations will take place and take the girls to safe locations before the ritual. FGM is often carried out in secret, without the person’s consent. It is considered a traditional rite of passage for adulthood and guarantees a greater dowry for the parents of girls who have undergone the procedure.

“I use a program to map streets, houses, schools, rivers, among others. There are no maps to guide these girls who are victims of FGM. We mapped out with the intention that these girls can find ways to escape safely ”, explains the student at the School of Communications and Arts (ECA) at USP.

Since 1998, mutilation has been banned in women under 18 in Tanzania. The practice can cause mental and physical problems, such as irregular menstrual cycle, bladder problems, infections and, in the case of pregnancy, the possibility of giving birth only through cesarean section. Several organizations work to combat the practice, including the Tanzania Development Trust (DTT), which coordinates the Crowd2Map Tanzania project.

Mariana Abuhab Bialski, USP student who works in Crowd2Map action- Photo: Personal archive

Rural Tanzania area that has no mapping – Photo: Crowd2Map
“There is almost always little time to reach the girls in the villages, we are often told at night that the cut will take place a few hours in advance. Finding remote villages in Tanzania can be extremely difficult, as rural areas have not been sufficiently mapped ”, reports DTT on its website. That’s why they created Crowd2Map.

According to the organization, more than 14,000 remote mappers have been trained worldwide, as is the case with Mariana. Another 3 thousand go to the field to add their local knowledge to these basic maps, mainly using smartphones and free applications like Maps.Me.

Check out the Crowd2Map action video

We will not be able to end hunger, inequality, that is not in our hands. But the little we do, these small actions that change people’s lives, is something that motivates our life purpose. I feel that sparkle in my eyes to think that we are really making a difference in the lives of these girls. I know they need help and I feel like I’m next to them saying it’s going to be okay and that I’m here to help them.
Mariana Abuhab Bialski,
18, volunteer for the Crowd2Map project
It is estimated that about 200 million women and girls have been subjected to the practice worldwide, according to the United Nations (UN). It is more common in some countries in Africa and the Middle East, but it also occurs in places in Asia and Latin America.

At the end of November the mutilation season began , which lasts approximately one month, in which the girls are victims of the procedure. During that time, Crowd2Map has a lot more work to do. The actions have greater force in the dissemination, to make the population aware of the problem.

The main volunteering regions can be seen on the map:

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, there will be an event mapping the project. The mapathon will be free and anyone can participate. There, activist Rhobi Samwell, who fights against FGM, will be present. The event will last 12 hours so that people from different time zones can participate. One of the proposals is to conduct a mapping training, which does not require previous experience.

How to participate in the project?

Access the link or send a message to Janet Chapman, president of DTT, by e-mail .

Mariana says that her dream was to work with human rights and decided to help in some way. “This project fascinated me a lot, mainly because of gender equality.” She joined Crowd2Map Tanzania in late August.