By Abdul Malik Bangura// Geneva, Switzerland
Sierra Leone Honourable Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has in front of the United Nations Committee of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Geneva, hailed the Soweis of Bondo Society in her country for their cooperation with the government of His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in fighting against circumcision of girls which practice is internationally considered harmful as a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden made this praise on the Soweis as she introduced Secretary General of National Soweis Council, Madam Kharday Zorokong, to the international United Nations gathering. Madam Zorokong was also part of the Minister’s unique and carefully chosen members of her high profile government delegation to the UN CRC.
Hon. Blyden highlighted that Soweis like Kharday Zorokong are actually practitioners of FGM but they had now joined the ongoing government campaign to ensure no more girls are initiated into the secret Bondo practise.
Hon. Blyden was speaking whilst delivering her statement during the 73rd session of the UN CRC at the Palais Wilson in Geneva. During the session, the Honourable Minister acknowledged the unique role that is being played by the Soweis of Sierra Leone.
Minister Blyden said that one of the fundamental success that the Government of Sierra Leone can boast of, is to have been able to cajole and convince the Sowies themselves to be at the forefront of preaching out respectful messages against child FGM. Therefore, the Minister overwhelmingly praised the Soweis Council, and acknowledged the outstanding leadership role played by female leaders of the Bondo Society in Sierra Leone.
In a similar gesture, Hon. Blyden also presented Sowei Zorokong to the African Group of AU Ambassadors to the UN whilst she was addressing the African Ambassadors as their special Guest of Honour.
The Honourable minister was able to appeal to the AU Group and the CRC Committee to look into the position of Sierra Leone Government in the fight against FGM. She said, a large amount of indigenous Sierra Leonean women are of the notion that “Western societies have disbursed huge sums of money to our government in order to compel our people to sway their tradition, which they have held for centuries,” Minister Blyden lamented.
She furthered that a deeply entrenched notion held by more than 80% of women in Sierra Leone can only be loosened through negotiation and not by sullying the women, insulting them that they were not fit for bedroom. She also pointed out the futility of passing draconian laws that would simply break the trust between government and the governed and counter productively affect the implementation of other government policies.
Wisely, Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden further stated that Sierra Leone, being a democratic State, the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is a listening President, who takes the concerns raised by his citizens into utmost importance. She said, that is why, the Government has been able to negotiate with the Sowies to ensure that they have an amicable meeting point on how to implement anti-FGM measures. She said, matured leadership is why the government has been able to get the traditional Sowies themselves to willingly work with the government in implementing that “no child under the age of 18years should undergo FGM.”
It can be recalled that Hon. Minister Blyden has been in Geneva this whole week representing the official positions of Government on child rights issues. In addition to her outstanding performance at the Child Rights Committee of the UN’s OHCHR, Hon. Minister Blyden was also sterling as she addressed the Africa Group of AU ambassadors in Geneva in morning of 15th September 2016.
It has been a whirlwind diplomatic and advocacy tour that has seen the amiable female Cabinet Minister hosted here in Geneva by the British Ambassador for Dinner, the American Ambassador over Lunchtime and the Swedish Ambassador in an exclusive breakfast teté-a-tet.
All diplomatic engagements were well organised by Ambassador Yvette Stevens, one of the gems in our country’s diplomatic mission. Hon. Blyden also witnessed the presentation by Ambassador Stevens to the UNHRC on behalf of Sierra Leone.
It has been a very successful tour in Geneva. The high quality and well organised Team which travelled with Hon. Sylvia Blyden to Geneva, have received loud applause from all they came in contact with.
Accompanying Photos show scenes of Hon. Blyden on her diplomatic engagements at US Embassy in Geneva, at Swedish Embassy in Geneva as well as of members of the government delegation – working hard in the late evening to compile responses including Sowei Kharday Zorokong herself as well as Director of Children’s Affairs Mrs. Joyce Kamara and Team Responses Lead Mr. Bamie J. Sesay of MSWGCA plus Hussain Muckson Sesay of CFN. During her engagement with the powerful AU Group at the UN’s Palais Nations, Hon. Blyden ensured she placed the anti-ChildFGM Sowei Zorokong right up there at the High Table with her. According to Hon. Blyden, the efforts of Soweis to take the lead in combating childFGM is clearly a source of pride for Sierra Leone and she called for it to be emulated across other African countries.
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