Soweis and Traditional Leaders in 5 Chiefdoms in the Bombali district have made a public declaration agreeing to abandon the initiation of Girls below 18 years old into the BONDO Society in compliance with section 33 (1) of the Child rights ACT of Sierra Leone 2007.
The move came following a one-day meeting organized by Amnesty International in their Special Programme on Africa and implementing partners Center for Democracy and Human rights CDHR in the Bombali district headquarter town of Makeni.
The Declaration was agreed upon at the Makeni City old hall. Chiefdoms involved are Bombali Shebora, Makari Gbanti, Paki Masabong, Biriwa and Safroko Limba. The declaration was also translated in Temne for all to understand and they all pledged to go by the agreement.
According to section 33 of the 2007 Child Rights Act, “No person shall subject a child to torture other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment including any cultural practice which dehumanizes or is injurious to the physical and mental welfare of a child”.
February 6th was therefore set aside to commemorate the abolition of initiation of girls under 18 years. It was in this light that Amnesty International in their Special Programme on Africa along with the Center for Democracy and Human Rights engaged initiators and section chiefs to make a commitment in observance of that day.
In the meeting several issues were discussed including problems affecting the girl child and possible recommendations that would help to remedy some of these emerging problems.
Soweis and traditional leaders present including the Paramount Chiefs representative of Bombali Shebora, Chief Benbella Kamara hanged heads to find lasting solutions to solve some of these problems. Some of the Recommendations they came up with after an hour of brainstorming were that everyone involved should make a commitment not to undertake the exercise to any child below the age of 18 years as stated in the Act.
Parents are also to be encouraged to send their children particularly the girls to school and avoid early marriage, and that parents should also monitor the activities of their girls.
Some were also of the view that NGO’s should increase their sensitization campaigns to every corner of the country and finally that people should endeavour to abide by the laws of the land.
Participants are now expected to go back to their various chiefdoms and pass on this message to other initiators and urge them to go by the agreement. The Amnesty International Special Programme on Africa has also moved to the East and South of the country to conduct similar exercise.