The Inter African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Sierra Leone yesterday called on journalists to help them in propagating the message of zero tolerance to female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone.
The briefing was organized to mark the international day on zero tolerance to FGM, under the theme “building bridges between Europe and Africa to arrive at zero tolerance to FGM: engaging the media”.
In her statement the Executive Director of IACSL Mrs. Laurel Bangura said that this is a wakeup call to get the attention of government to legislate on the issue of women and other harmful practices especially the African traditional practices (ATP). She emphasized that they are not discriminating the Bondo society but the aspect which deals with cutting is what they want to eliminate but they cannot do it alone. That is the reason she said why they need the media to help them in achieving their goal. She further stated that the media should give out adequate information so that people can make informed decisions; she further stressed that if the people are well informed and educated about FGM they will not allow their children to be part of it.
In addition, gynecologist and campaigner Dr Koso Thomas outlined the medical implications of the practice. She started by giving a brief history of the organization which started in April 1994 in Dakar Senegal with the aim to reduce harmful practices to women. She further stated that FGM is the worst hazard to women as these practices are done without anesthetics and inflict serious pain for the girl. Also it causes serious bleeding, difficulty to pass urine and leakage in the private part of a woman which has a social implication on her. Sometimes the wound will not heal and they are not given antibiotics which affect them in the future while giving birth because of the infection that has been caused by the cutting.
This may prolong the pain during child birth thereby leading to caesarian section. In some cases some girls will not see their menses because the tubes are blocked – another health hazard that she emphasized is caused by the blade that is used for cutting which in most cases is not sterilized and the same blade is used for all the initiates thereby increasing the risk of transmission of AIDS and other diseases.
The rate of female genital mutilation is increasing in the western area in Freetown and the new technique now is the circumcision done on babies before they are 18 years old because of the law that was passed by parliament that no child should be circumcised below the age of 18.
The Baptist Women’s Union and Love Foundation was also represented at the press briefing. In her statement she also stressed the need for the media to work with them in order to achieve zero tolerance in FGM. She also called on the Government to increase their plan concerning this practice and also to domesticate it. When they conducted a survey on the topic they found out that in Makeni it has reduced drastically to 10 percent also they found out that the Soweis saw it as a trade and a source of livelihood for them. Therefore after series of sensitization they were able to stop the practice but with an alternative that they should be given a trade in order for them to survive.
In conclusion the inter African committee on traditional practices affecting the health of women and children categorically stated that they are willing to work with any organization to eradicate female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone because the fight cannot be won by them alone but with collective effort especially the government.
By Nancy Koroma