By Donstance Koroma
Director of the Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), Rugiatu Nenneh Turay Koroma, said Port Loko and Tonkolili districts have consented for 250 girls to go through Bondo without cutting. This is as a result of the aim of changing the mindsets of women and traditional authorities.
The Director made this disclosure during an engagement organized by the Port Loko District Human Rights Committee (PLDHRC) for the eradication of sexual and gender based violence in the district at the Port Loko District Council Hall.
Rugiatu Nenneh Turay Koroma registered her disappointment over the report presented by the Port Loko District Human Rights Committee, on the increase in the spate of SGBV in Port Loko, Masiaka, Lunsar and Lungi, but did not capture cases of female genital mutilation (FGM).
“Port Loko has changed the perception that the International Community holds about Sierra Leone with regards FGM,” Madam Koroma noted. She continued that the international community holds the view that Sierra Leone is among the countries that is afraid of talking about FGM.
The change of perception, she noted, has been stimulated by traditional authorities, the police and Civil Society Organisations in the district, noting that the district is the first to adopt the alternative of Bondo without cutting.
The Director continued that her organization have succeeded in removing a Poro bush, a male traditional society, in the north of the country to construct a school.
“If we are saying child marriage should be stop, why not FGM?“ She asked.
Madam Koroma said both rape and FGM have to do with fidgeting of the vagina and one should not be afraid to confront it.
“Before now traditional authorities refused to grant permission to publicly talk about FGM, but as it stands, they have joined the campaign,” she disclosed.
Collectively, the district have gone ahead to remove children in Bondo bushes that were on the verge of undergoing initiation, the director added.
Rugiatu Nenneh Turay Koroma revealed that Paramount Chiefs of Moyamba and Kenema have invited her organization to talk on the said issue, because they have come to the realization that the intention of her organization was not to destroy the Bondo culture but to promote human rights at all levels.
She therefore encouraged women in leadership to support one and other for women to have commonality.
“As an activist, I have come to the realization that perpetrators of SGBV are men but those that compromise the violations are largely women,” AIM Director stated.
She said that the level of understanding among women stands very low, therefore using culture and traditions to bring in women at the top level to meet with rural women if human rights should be achieved at all levels.
“If we say women should choose between whether to be initiated or not then we are equally saying that when your husband has sex with you, whether forcefully or not, the wife should not report because the man has married her,” she noted.
Similarly, she continued that, if one chooses to kill him or herself, the individual should not be charged for attempted suicide because it is his or her life. Lies, she said, are those that turn to myths that limit many not to make decision to save themselves.
“If those that started mutilation were not afraid, why should we be afraid to say remove mutilation and continue with tradition?” she stressed.
Director Koroma disclosed that organizations within the district alongside stakeholders have succeeded in having an Anti FGM Committee in Parliament that is championed by Members of Parliament from Port Loko District.
Three chiefdoms have consented to remove their Bondo bushes, she revealed. Rugiatu Nenneh Turay Koroma attributed the degree of disunity amongst women to that of the Bondo traditions. According to her, every woman wants to be a leader.
She informed that her organization, Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), have and continues to embark on the reduction of Bondo bushes to enhance monitoring, and also lobbying stakeholders for the removal of Bondo bushes.
She noted that, during initiation, young girls die, but the initiators continue to keep sealed lips attributing the death to demons. She appreciates the effort of the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police and traditional authorities sounded strongly toward the fight against FGM.
AIM is among the leading organization champing anti-FGM and women empowerment in Port Loko District and its environs.