The Story of Sylvia Hannah Kamara: The Young Girl that Narrowly Escaped Forced Marriage & Attempted FGM

Sylvia Hannah Kamara
Sylvia Hannah Kamara

By Millicent Senava Mannah

The issues of forced marriage and initiation of young girls into a secret society, known as the Bondo, where Female Genital Mutilation is being carried out in a Sacred Bush of the Secret Society, still continue to be pervasive in especially remote areas in the small West African country of Sierra Leone.

Despite mounting vigorous campaigns by various feminists and advocacy groups against the two grave human rights violations with all of them calling on the Government to take sterner measures against the perpetrators, the acts are carried out clandestinely with no consideration even given to the consent of the poor girls, who in most cases have no alternative but to yield to the forceful manipulations of their parents and other family members.

It has been clearly established that in the case of forced marriages, poverty is at the heart of influencing the parents to force their daughters to enter into marriages with men that they do not like in the first place. As long as the parents’ financial quests are satisfied or quenched they do not give a hoot as to how their daughters will feel or react.

This medium came to learn of the ordeals of a young girl by the name of Sylvia Hannah Kamara, who was said to be born on the 3rd MAY 1996 in the rural village setting of Missiri Village, Northern Sierra Leone, through one of our reporters who happens to be in that part of the country at that material time when all what transpired to the poor girl occurred.

He pointed out that as a matter of fact, residents of the village, who spoke mainly the Temne language, are real traditionalists who still continue to tenaciously cling on to the customs and traditions of their ancestors simply because Western Civilization did not quite penetrate into that part of the country during the colonial era.

According to one of the tenets of their tradition, he continued, any girl or boy that has reached puberty stage must, as a matter of fact, be initiated into the two main secret societies, the Bondo for the girls and women and Poro for the boys and it is not a matter of choice or something to argue about. Besides, as long as the girls have produced matured breasts and considered ripe to bear children they could be given into marriages whenever suitors materialize with required bride prizes.

Our reporter narrated that, Sylvia Hannah Kamara, could best be described as a typical victim of the customary and traditional practices of Missiri Village. He revealed how her parents forced the young girl to marry to one fellow by the name of Alimamy, said to be very influential and powerful, adding that throughout the time they lived together, the guy forcefully had sex with her at any given time he wants to, most times against her wish and consent.

“His actions were tantamount to rape as he severely beat and molested her in order to cower her,” he further intimated adding that as all these Sexual and Gender Based Violence was taking place none of the other residents of the village raised eyebrows as they considered the girl to not only be stubborn but that she must be submissive to her husband by granting him his wishes.

He also disclosed that added to violence perpetrated against the helpless poor girl, Alimamy, was forcing her to be initiated into the Bondo Society, an act which should have been done before Alimamy ravenously deflowered her, tempted by her sexual projections which served as one of the factors that led him to marry her after amassing the bride prize required by her parents.

“In order to conform to societal expectation he was piling pressure on her to be initiated in order for her to undergo Female Genital Mutilation,” our reporter informed.

He continued that as the pressure was becoming unbearable for the young girl, as if by divine intervention, something miraculous occurred in 2022.

He said the girl summoned courage, when she learnt that the next day the Bondo Society women will be coming for her to be taken to the Sacred Bush for initiation, and escaped into what later was referred to as oblivion. He said despite the fact that the authorities of the village organized search parties and looked for her everywhere within the nook and cranny of the village they could not locate her. He emphasized that since 2022 when Sylvia escaped she has never surfaced and speculations abound that she may have run into something very disastrous.

According to our reporter what the poor girl did is considered by the elders of the village as an abominable act to the highest degree that has the propensity of angering the gods. He said if she is seen she could be severely punished in a gruesome manner with the tendency that if she even survives she will be forced to reunite with her barbaric husband, Alimamy, who is considered to be powerful in the village and will certainly continue to suffer other worse forms of sexual and gender violence.

He noted that from what he has so far heard and seen Sylvia Hannah Kamara’s safety will never be guaranteed if got hold of by those searching for her as she will be presumably tortured during the forceful initiation ceremony she has deliberately escaped from as well as it is definite that they will coerce her to once more return to the man she so loathes.

The plight of, Sylvia Hannah Kamara, mirrors the ordeals that young girls continue to face under the bondage of conforming and shaping their lives according to the tenets of entrenched customs and traditions which some continue to tenaciously cling to. Though various legislations have been enacted like the Sexual Offences Acts and punitive measures have been instituted against perpetrators, however, the fact that some are not reported to law enforcement authorities, issues of such nature and gravity are rather compromised domestically. Furthermore, the implementation of the legislations is still a bit challenging. As a result, young girls particularly in remote settings, continue to tremendously suffer Sexual and Gender Based Violence in silence.


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