By Foday Moriba Conteh
In the bid to end child marriage and teen pregnancy in Sierra Leone, Initiative for Women Empowerment Sierra Leone (InWE-SL), a female-led organization in partnership with Marie Stopes Sierra Leone and Girls Not Brides USA has on Friday 11th October, 2019 conducted a one day awareness raising on Child Marriage and Teen Pregnancy at Kankaylay Islamic School in Wellington, Freetown.
Speaking at the ceremony, Founder/Executive Director Initiative for Women Empowerment Sierra Leone, Isatu Sawudatu Kargbo, said the International Day of the Girl Child is an international observance day declared by the United Nations on 11th October 2012, adding that the observation supports more opportunities for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender. She stated that the inequality include areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage.
The Executive Director said that in celebrating the day we must reflect on the successful emergence of girls and young women as a distinct cohort in development policy, programming, campaigning and research.
She disclosed that Initiative for Women Empowerment is a female-led organization established to address issues that are affecting women and girls in our society and to bring out possible solutions for their development for sustained nation building.
She admonished pupils to take their studies serious underscoring how education is the key to success, adding that education is a process of learning that one goes through in order to become somebody in society. In that vein she encouraged them to take this is an opportunity for them to achieve their dreams and become great people in society who will in return give back to society.
She called on the Government of Sierra Leone to review a customary marriage law which states that a girl will get married with the consent of her parents even when the child is not willing. That, she said, is tantamount to a violation of the right of the child.
Youth and Adolescent Mobilization Officer, Western Area -Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, Fayia Foray congratulated the girls as they celebrate a remarkable day in their lives, noting that the observation supports more opportunities for girls, increase awareness and about what they are doing as an organization.
He disclosed that Marie Stopes has been around for over 33 years with the main focus on women and girls ensuring that they have access to correct Sexual and Reproductive Health Information and Family Planning.
He said that family planning services are defined as “educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including minors to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to select the means by which this may be achieved.” He encouraged the children to take their studies serious admonishing them to abstain from sex or use family planning services in order to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
A teacher of the Kankaylay Islamic School Wellington, Kadiatu Bangura, thanked Initiative for Women Empowerment Sierra Leone (InWE-SL) for the awareness raising confessing how it is the first time to have such an awareness on child marriage, teenage pregnancy, sexual reproductive issues in their school.
She advised children to abstain from sex or use family planning services in order to prevent themselves from unwanted pregnancy; she also urged Government to pay more attention on addressing issues of the girl child in the country.
Fatmata Bangura, one of the participants, thanked Initiative for Women Empowerment Sierra Leone, Marie Stopes Sierra Leone and Girls Not Brides USA for the awareness raising expressing hope that the awareness will impact positively on them as children. She revealed that they were hitherto ignorant of the negative effects of Teenage Pregnancy, Early marriage etc. but with the knowledge gained it will help them to be more robust in overcoming the aforementioned issues in their daily lives.
The event was climaxed with the distribution of exercise books to the pupils who participated in the event.