By Ishmael Dumbuya
Human Rights Commission Sierra Leone (HRCSL), in collaboration with Forum Against Harmful Practices, (FAHP), with support from UNICEF and Restless Development, has yesterday 19th July engaged tribal heads and Paramount Chiefs on the dangers and harmful practices of Female Genital Mutilation as well as their roles in eradicating it. The engagement was held at the CCSL conference hall, Brookfields, Freetown.
In her opening statement, Director Gloria Bayoh explained that the purpose for organising such engagement was to create awareness and enlightened the tribal heads and paramount chiefs about their roles and responsibilities within their respective chiefdoms in ensuring that the harmful practices of FGM is either curtailed or abolished. She added that the fight against FGM started over two decades ago, but that they were yet to accomplish their targets.
The Chairman, tribal heads, Chief Saa Gbekie, stated that they as chiefs’ do not frown at FGM, but are very much concerned with its harmful practices and the effects it has on their women and girls, adding that his mother was a genital excisor (Sowei), but managed to educate him.
Chief Gbekie went on to state that tribal heads and paramount chiefs are very much important in abolishing FGM, as they are always consented when female mutilations are done.
“Even though we respect our traditions and customs, but the HRCSL organizing such engagements will help shed light on the harmful practices of FGM,” he noted.
A representative from the Ministry of Health, Mariam Sow underscored that the health impacts of FGM is very devastating, noting that involving paramount chiefs and tribal heads in the fight is a step in the right direction.
Sow explained that the effects of FGM cannot be overrated as it causes severe pain, cutting the nerve ends and sensitive genital tissue causes extreme pain, excessive bleeding, when the clitoral artery or other blood vessel is cut, shock, swelling, infections, urination problems and most times death.
An FGM victim, Salamatu Samura from Tonko Limba, explained that the experiences she encountered during the mutilation process was back breaking and monstrous. She added that she was physically, sexually and mentally abused during the process by so called Soweis, noting that it an experience she never want to encounter again.