Government’s ban on all forms of initiation of young girls below 18 years into the ‘Bondo’ cultural practices had been adhered to by practitioners and traditional authorities across the country. Byelaws, were developed by government through the Local Government and chiefdom authorities placing a ban on the initiation of all under aged young girls. The Youth and Child Advocacy Network (YACAN) and Plan International with support from the Girls Advocacy Alliance Project (GAA), has engaged Soweis in the Western Area to popularise the already developed bye-laws to enforce the ban on Child initiation into the Bondo Society. The popularization campaign will target 4 selected communities in Western Area, Kanikay, Waterloo, Dworzack and Goderich. The engagement was championed by Soweis in the four selected communities against the backdrop that the campaign goals can by achieved with the practitioners themselves because they command respect and value for laws. The Soweis have been playing important roles towards restoring peace and development among women in their communities. During the engagement it became clear to YACAN that community stakeholders and Soweis in consultation with the community elders including chiefs, counsellors, Imams and pastors enacted the laws. It aims at frustrating all under age Bondo initiation in the selected communities so that young girls will be allowed to the reach the full age of consent before being initiated.
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The Director of YACAN Hassan Fuad Kanu said the engagement is solely for the Soweis and that their presence was not to talk about Bondo but rather to talk about the roles of Sowies from the angle of being women’s leaders. He said it is important to be aware of the developed and signed laws in 2016 and 2017 respectively, which according to him deals with the protections of girls and young women, child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, Teenage Pregnancy and Domestic violence, which are still in existence. A women’s leader Chief Kaloko, who doubles as a Sowei in the Waterloo Community said as chiefs they were trained to govern people to support the laws that ban underage child initiation and other negative issues across their community. She expressed their continual commitment towards working with government and its partners in adhering to laws in particular to protect young girls and women. In the Kanikay community, senior Sowei member madam Salamatu Bangura said despite the fact that they had long agreed to work with the laws, they are disappointed that government is yet to fulfill its promise of supporting Soweis across the country. She revealed that they as Soweis did not create the practices hence it was an inheritance from their past generation this according to her, needs to be pass unto the next generation. In all four communities what came out clearly was that the Soweis expressed commitments to uphold the agreement and to ensure no under-age Bondo initiation takes place in their communities. More than 150 members of the Bondo society participated in the engagement at community level and assured of ensuring the full popularization and implementation of the bye-laws. The session was organised by YACAN with funds from Plan International.
By Mohamed Kabba
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