By Ragan M. Conteh
The 2019 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)conducted by Statistic Sierra Lone have reported that, Sierra Leone is among the countries in Africa with highest prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The DHS even during COVID-19 pandemic shows that, the Southern province has FGM prevalence rate of 82.5%, Northern Province93.0%, Eastern Province90.5%, and Western Area 76.9% respectively.
According to DHS report, FGM carries no health benefit informing that, women, and girls with FGM faces higher death rates risk during and immediately after childbirth as well as higher risks for caesarean sections and longer hospital stay.
The United Nations convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), indicated that, FGM is a violation of human rights and it has the highest attainable standard of health and bodily integrity.
Madam Rugiatu Neneh Koroma is the founder and Executive Director of Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM). In an interview on May 3, 2021 told this medium that, the FGM aspect of ‘Bondo Society’ should be removed based on health, social and economic risks associated to it.
In 2020 during COVID-19 Pandemic, her organization has initiated the new method of ‘Bondo without Cutting’ meant to stop FGM which is the main activity of the society as a pilot phase in the Port Loko district.
“The other important aspect of ‘Bondo Without Shedding Blood’” according to Madam Koroma, “is the fact that the‘Bondo Society/Bush’ will continue to be a place where women can learn and imbibe the culture of good leadership in community.”
She stressed that some of the important aspects of ‘Bondo Without Cutting’ includes, celebrating the new initiates, upholding wholesomely the aspects of ‘Bondo Society’, which is dancing, teaching women and girls to respect elders and societal rules, how to take care of their husbands, children, and members of the family, among others.
Other reason she advanced for the removal of cutting in the ‘Bondo Society’ is that underage girls do go into these ‘Bondo Society Shrines’ without prior knowledge of why they are there, an act she referred to as deceit.
On the area of health, the AIM founder said that “women do not want a culture that will kill, women died at the hospital as a result of health implications or have problem on their marriage homes but want the culture that will help uplift women dignity”.
Speaking from a United Nations perspective, the UN Women Country representative, Dr. Mary Okumu during an interview on May 5,2021, called on initiators who mutilate girls in other districts of the country not to initiate girls who are below 18, without the consent of those who are above 18 and especially when corona pandemic is troubling the entire world.
She called on initiators to copy the recent development – ‘Bondo Without Shedding Blood’ as it causes no health harm to either the women or the community.
Director of Girl Child Network, Madam Anita Koroma said that women and girls of this country have suffered because of the terrible practice of FGM, and apparently most of them have lost their lives, dignity, some have been permanently disabled a reason they as CSO have stood firm to ensuring that this heinous practice is eliminated.
Initiator/mutilator known as ‘Sowe’, Sampa Soko Bangura in Port Loko district, during the interview on May 7, 2021, confessed that she was one among those who initiated the girls at mile 91 wherein a10-year-old girl eventually lost her life after gone through the practice.
A new initiate of ‘Bondo Without Cutting’, Naimeh Ishmael, disclosed that parents are the trouble shooters for their young girls because they influence them to become initiate and victims of FGM even during this COVID-19 pandemic.“I thank on behalf of my colleagues AIM for introducing ‘Bondo Society’ a practice that see women benefits from womanhood trainings in the ‘Bondo Bush’, which I am proud and happy” she asserted.
The Paramount Chief of Teneh Chiefdom in the Tonkolili District, Bai Kafarie II, who spoke to this medium on May 8, 2021 said that, because of how the COVID-19 Pandemic is ravaging world, he banned all FGM practice in his chiefdom in other to stop the spread of the virus among women and girls in his chiefdom.