Sowies residing in Grafton displaced camp have requested that in order for them abandon the practice of initiating girls below the age of consent they [the sowies] need help for better living in their community.
Over the weekend, Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) and other partners of the Amnesty International Special Program in Africa Coalition (SPA) in Sierra Leone engaged soweis at Old Camp field at Grafton in a pre-dialogue forum.
According to sowie Yanday Konneh they are living in a deplorable condition, adding that most of them are widows and bread winners of their families.
She explained that there is not much trade in the community and as such all what they depend on for their livelihood are fees received for initiation.
“We are ready to abandon this profession, but how are we going to leave it when we have no other income generating trade to engage on?” She asked.
The Grafton Old Camp sowei said, “we have no option. If my family is starving and a girl child below the age of consent is brought for initiation by her parent, I have no option but to initiate her,” she pointed out.
“This is our profession and we have to survive by it, except provisions are created otherwise,” she said.
Local Chief Pa Alimamy Sesay, said that he is appreciative of this laudable venture. He explained that before, initiates were matured women now children are being initiated into the society which is not good at all.
He appealed to Non Government Organizations [NGOs] to come to the aid of the sowies if they want them to refrain from the practice.
“We as chiefs within this community we serve as watchdog in ensuring that children below age are not initiated” he said.
His statement was buttressed by his wife Ya Bowara who stressed that she would be monitoring the sowie’s initiation ground to ensure that children are not initiated.
Police representative at the meeting disclosed to the sowies that it is a crime to initiate children below the age of consent and encouraged the sowei’s to stop the practice before they fall short of the law.
CGG coordinator, Valnora Edwin assured all that she would ensure that their representatives in parliament and council are brought to them to answer questions regarding their well-being and see how they can map out ways to upgrade the present deplorable condition of residents of the camp.
The meeting was concluded with an action plan where the Chief agreed to monitor the soweis, Amnesty International promised to continue dialogue with local NGO ‘Sabi yu Right’ host of the Grafton dialogue; CGG also promised regular engagement with soweis and the soweis in turn asked for help to stop the practice.
This dialogue is as a result of a campaign initiated by CGG and its stakeholders on a crusade against harmful traditional practices affecting women and girls, especially those below the age of consent.
CGG, Amnesty, UNICEF and Human and Economic Development Organization (HEDO) By Ophaniel Gooding