By Joe tucker
The Youth and Child Advocacy Network (YACAN) and Plan International Sierra Leone with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands through its Girls Advocacy Alliance Project (GAA), has ended a two day training of “Soweis” Council Executive and Members on Gender Laws and other Child Protection Instruments in Western Area at the GCEM Hall, John Street, Freetown.
The training which was held on 15th and 16th October, 2019 targeted Soweis in four (4) communities: Kanikay, Dworzak, Waterloo and Godrich respectively. The rationale behind the training was to support the development of Local Bye-Laws relating to Child Marriage, Under Age Child Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Sexual Exploitation and Domestic Violence in their communities.
In his presentation, the Director of YACAN, Mr. Hassan Fuad Kanu discussed the bye-laws that were developed and validated by the people of Dwarzark community. He said the laws were not specifically enacted for the soweis, but were for the community as a whole. He believes the soweis play a very big role towards ensuring the laws are effective. Mr. Kanu continues that it was in 2016 when they started working with the soweis, they realized the kinds of role they play toward ensuring those laws are effective in their communities. Adding that, when it comes to Child Marriage, it is the soweis on the other hand that determine girls who are virgin and those who are not.
The Director maintained that the role of YACAN is not to go against traditional norms of the Bondo society, but to restore it dignity. Like for issues related to FGM, according to the Director, they are only asking the soweis to increase the age bracket of girls initiated into the Bondo society, because when a girl is underage and initiated, the possibility for her to forget the laws of the society is great.
Other key issues discussed by Mr Kanu in the bye-laws were Sexual Exploitation and Domestic Violence.
At the end of the workshop, YACAN provided the Sowei Council with support to monitor ‘Bondo’ Initiations and at the same time provides logistics support to soweis for implementing the bye-laws and for addressing underage initiation in their various communities.
By Joe tucker