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Deputy Gender Minister vows to continue FGM campaign

August 29, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has vowed to continue preaching against female genital cutting, saying that no one will change her passion on the issue either for political gains or personal aggrandizement.

Rugiatu Neneh Turay said she was happy that the debate on FGM has generated wide discussion among Sierra Leoneans, adding that in the past people were afraid to openly discuss the issue.

“Anti-FGM campaigners are trying to promote the lives of our women and girls which are very precious. We are pro-life and not pro-death,” she said and noted that they are not against the Bondo Society but the cutting and the way it is being done.

She expressed her willingness to mobilise and train girls on cultural practices within the Bondo society without shedding blood.

With regards her relationship with the Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP) and the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars given to campaigners, Madam Turay stated that she was the chairperson of the Forum but resigned two months before her appointment as deputy minister.

She denied that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been given to anti-FGM campaigners, adding “No donor has given anti-FGM campaigners or FAHP such a huge sum of money. But assuming that is the case, what cause can be effectively championed or fought without money?” she quizzed and added that change cannot be effected without money.

The Deputy Gender Minister said it was unfair for people to relate her thoughts to that of FAHP.

“I think there is every need to make families and our girls understand the dangers of the cutting. We also want to protect them from this wickedness,” she said.

The recent death one Fatmata Turay, a 19-year-old senior secondary school pupil in the northern city of Makeni, who allegedly died during initiation into the Bondo society, has been roundly condemned by anti-FGM campaigners, who demand that the Social Welfare Ministry, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and other stakeholders take steps to save the lives of young girls who are forcefully initiated, with many losing their lives or developing life-changing complications subsequently.

Last Wednesday (24 August), FAHP, a coalition of civil society organisations released a statement condemning the prevalence of genital cutting around the country, with incidences reported in Port Loko, Tonkolili, Bombali districts and the Western Area Rural and Urban.

Despite being a signatory to several global and continental treaties banning harmful traditional practices to women and girls, Sierra Leone is yet to ban FGM.

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