NGOs Frown At FGM In Sierra Leone     …Urges Government To Abolish FGM

Some of the young girls initiated in Bo recently

By Lansana Munda

Some Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in Sierra Leone including Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP) and Equity Now have expressed their frustrations and disappointments over the continuous initiation of young girls by Soweis  in the bondo bush against their wishes. The NGOs have started lobbying senior government officials and Members of Parliament for the abolition of the Bondo society or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country.

The government has legalize the Bondo practice in the country for girls above eighteen years. Government sees the abolition as a political tool that the women will use against them during elections. And fifty two percent of the population in Sierra Leone are women which makes it very difficult for government to adhere to the demands of NGOs.

The laws of the country makes it punishable for any Sowei to initiate a girl below eighteen years.

Sierra Leone does not have any law that prohibits and purnishes the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Bondo.

Women and girls who have not been initiated are frowned upon and prohibited from taken part in community functions. This practice is carried out by traditional cutters called Soweis, who controls lots of power in the country’s social and cultural functions.

Report of women and girls being kidnapped and forcefully initiated are common in the country especially in the provinces, which has not gone down well with NGOs and human rights activists.

A senior member of the Soweis Madam Fatmata Daramy told this medium that it is mandatory for girls to be initiated into the Bondo society. She said any girl who refuses to be initiated will not be allowed to participate in any public forum.

“She will not command respect. Her colleagues will mock her and men do not normally go in for them and they will end up being prostitute which has negative consequences on their lives. So to avoid all these embarrassments it is a must that girls agree to be initiated,” Md. Daramy said.

She pointed out that the Soweis are only mandated to initiate girls into the Bondo society.

She pointed out that it is also mandatory for the eldest daughter of the Sowei woman to replace her mother into the Sowei society when she dies.

She said if the daughter refuses to adhere to the traditions, that individual will live a miserable life. She pointed out that the Soweis have some spiritual powers that will call the lady spiritually to follow the foot steps of her mother.

She stressed that once the mother has been initiated as a Sowei, her eldest daughter will immediately replace her after her demise. She said because some girls don’t want to follow the traditions, they end up becoming miserable people in the communities.

Another senior Sowei woman, Aminata Lahai disclosed that some five hundred and fifty young girls were initiated in Bo district, South of Sierra Leone early last month, which has been described as the highest in the country. Because of this development, she said some NGOs are vigorously lobbying government officials and Parliamentarians to enact a law that will abolish this Bondo business.

Meanwhile, Equity Now and Forum Against Harmful Practices have called on the government through the relevant ministries to permanently placed a ban on FGM by enacting a comprehensive anti FGM law and protect women and girls who are uncut from intimidation and abuse.

The Executive Director of Equity Now, Dr. Rashida Minah emphasized what young girls are going through in the hands of the Soweis. She said they will intensify their campaign for the attention of government with a view to put a stop to this.



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