By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
Discussions on Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting [FGM/C] which used to be an unpardonable offence in almost every Chiefdom in the North West District of Port Loko, have become such a general concern that the Issue is now open for public and private deliberations. The agitation on Female Genital Cutting was initially championed in this part of the Country by the Amazonian Initiative Movement [AIM] under the leadership of Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma who is also the National President of the Forum Against Harmful Practices [ FAHP]. This was a time when Parents were paying lip service to the economic constraints they were continually exposed to, while the Practitioners / Sowies were enjoying the total support of Traditional Authorities. It was therefore a normal pattern for one to be thoroughly embarrassed for anything said against the Practice irrespective of one’s Status in Society.
The aims and aspirations of Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma in putting a stop to the aspect of cutting originated from her desire to salvage the plight of the poor Parents and the defenceless Children in particular. Most of these Children were often forced into the Bondo Society by their very Parents. Fascinatingly enough, the indefatigable efforts of Madam Turay – Koroma have now gained the support of other goodhearted persons such as Maggie O’Kane and Lucian Ganda. They have succeeded in enticing and coordinating the active participation of Media Practitioners across the Country especially in the Northern Region. As a result, the Campaign against Female Genital Cutting has gathered extensive momentum.
In the North West District of Port Loko for instance, the Media Team is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that the message is availed in distance and hard to reach Places. The Coordinators of these Media Teams have gone a step further in ensuring that there is an activity plan for each of the key events in the year. It is as a consequent of such proper and competitive planning that the Port Loko Team has proceeded with the FGM Campaign for the Easter festivity in all the 13 Chiefdoms in its area of responsibility.
The Team is currently engaged in disseminating the message for this year’s Easter festivity with the theme – ‘ FGM is not my Religion’. Members of this Team were therefore at the Bantoron Beach about 6 miles from the City of Port Loko, where a lot of young people gathered to observed Easter Monday. The Gathering was engaged by Madam Nancy Gbaimoi – a Civil Society Activist, who used the opportunity to brief her Audience on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting. She made a particular reference to the health hazards in the Practice which has often resulted to excessive bleeding and untimely deaths. Most People were overjoyed and expressed willingness to join the Campaign, when she ended with an appeal for all to enhance the fight against the harmful aspect of the Practice.
This was followed by a Radio Panel Discussion late in the evening, which was anchored by the Port Loko Media Team Lead – Madam Yakoya Kamara. The Port Loko District Health Sister 2 – Madam Zainab Kamara of the Port Loko District Health Management Team, Madam Patricia Famer – a Head Teacher who until now, was firmly in support of the Bondo Society, and Madam Kaidiatu Soko- sampa Bangura – an Ex Sowei Practitioner, formed the team of Panellists. In their separate submissions, they made a thorough look at the initial purpose for the establishment of the Bondo Society whose principal objective was to train girls on how to become caring housewives and responsible mothers in society.
The Panellists however expressed concern on how this noble idea has been shifted over the years to that of money making. The show was almost torpedoed by a chain of calls. It was a sort of fuss, as every other caller wanted to contribute on this crucial issue. Quite a good number of them singled out the financial challenges partaking Parents are exposed to. There was also the aspect of health hazards in which the Practice is shrouded. The case of a Junior Secondary School Pupil whose performance at School drastically dwindled after her initiation into the Bondo Society was cited by one of the callers. This was followed by a School Pupil who said her Parents were much more interested in lavishing huge sums of money in Bondo related activities instead of investing in her education.
In the end, Kadiatu Sampa – Soko Bangura , the Sowei who is now on oath to relinquish the profession, said she became a Sowei at the age of 12, for which she blamed her Parents who refused to have her sent to School. As for Patricia Farmer, the Practice is a violation of the right of the Child, while Sister Zainab Kamara viewed it as an offence for an under aged girl to be circumcised. They therefore zeroed with an appeal for skills training to enable those Sowies that are willing to quit the practice eke out a sure way of survival as ex- practitioners.
Below are photos obtained at the various locations where the Port Loko Media Team has been to spread the message against Female Genital Cutting. This is to be followed by a narrative on the Port Loko Media Team’s to Lunsar and Lungi respectively………