The Advocacy Movement Network (AMNeT) has released staggering figures indicating that 88 percent of Sierra Leonean women are Bondo initiated (Female Genital Mutilation) despite efforts by campaigners to stop increase of the practice in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of AMNET Hawa Samai made this statement yesterday on the commemoration of the International Female Genital Mutilation Zero Tolerance Day on the theme ‘Men taking the lead to stop child FGM and prioritizing girl-child education’ at the conference room of Christian Health Association at Kingherman Road in Freetown.
She said her organization has undertaken a series of activities to commemorate the day across the country and calls on the government to domesticate and implement the international treaties like UN-CRC, CEDAW African Charter on the rights and welfare of children.
The CEO- said AMNeT has signed a memorandum of understanding prohibiting child FGM in eight districts across the country with support from their partners like Cord aid Holland, UNIPSIL, UNDP,, UN Women, Save the Children and World Vision Sierra Leone.
She also said that in the world today, 150 million of women and girls have gone through FGM and even in this 21st century, millions of girls are still at risk of being initiated.
Speaking at the ceremony, Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission Brima Sheriff, identified some of the challenges in addressing the issue of female genital mutilation in the country and called on parents and initiators (soweis) to desist the practice.
Nana K. A. Bosia, an African human rights scholar who also doubles as Chief Democratic Institute Officer at UNIPSIL said “FGM is very central in human rights protection, especially the rights of the child”, adding that FGM is also ideological in some respect.
Secretary-General of the Child Rights Coalition Sierra Leone, David Yambasu from Christian Brothers calls for the implementation of the Child Rights Act of 2007, he noted that despite the campaign against FGM, there is still high prevalence of the initiation in the country.
Secretary-General of the Council of Tribal Heads, Mathew Jibao Young, said traditional values should be protected but that harmful practices should also be abolished by the society.
He said as traditional leaders they are recommending that abolition of the practice should be very gradual because it is a societal issue.
He added that frantic efforts have been made through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with soweis and traditional leaders to stop the initiation of children below the ages of 18.
He expressed commitment and determination as tribal heads to stop FGM among children, as permission should be sought before initiations.
VicePresident National Soweis Council at Kroobay, Salamatu Gumbu Kamara said they are faced with numerous challenges and alleged that some medical doctors are undertaking the practice which is highly prevalent among the fullah tribe.
She said “though we are advocating for the abolition of FGM across the country, prevalence is still very high in rural areas.
AMNET is a registered non-governmental organization working towards protecting and defending the rights of vulnerable women against all forms of violence and exploitation.
By Saidu Bah