July 6, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Services last week visited headquarters of the Family Support Unit and Methodist Girls High School as part of efforts to help tackle early marriage, teenage pregnancy and child labour across the country.
Chairperson of the committee, Hon. Emma Kowa said it was their right as responsible representatives of the people to understand issues such as the abuse of young girls and children nationwide, adding that apart from their legislative role they perform monitoring and supervising duties to institutions that receive funds to address the situation.
Hon. Kowa said the laws have been enacted, but their implementation was yet to positively reflect on the lives of women, girls and children in the country, adding that there was lack of clear manifestation of programmes initiated to support that category of persons.
She said the attainment of education could only be achieved through hard work, and added that young girls should be ambassadors preaching to their peers who are victims and those are potential victims, about the impact of early marriage on young girls.
“Early marriage may not be rampant in the cities, but you could have friends who have been in schools with you that are in the provinces and have been victims; they need advise,” she said. “Infant mortality is common among young girls and we want to eradicate it from our society only with your support. We want girls to be girls not mothers.”
She added that girls who are victims of the Ebola outbreak should be supported. “They need your support as colleagues and we hope you will provide them with the support they are in need of. We must to put a stop to people that are pointing fingers at survivors as they too have the right to live in our society,” she said.
Hon. Mohamed Tholley encouraged the girls to stop being intimate to boys and men as they would only destroy their future, adding that early marriage and teenage pregnancy could be eradicated if they heeded to his call.
Hon. Fredrick Sourie urged the girls to have passion for education and not sex as there would be time for such matters.
Head of FSU, Superintendent Mira Koroma, said their vision was to establish a one stop centre in the four regions of the country to help reduce the burden on the courts, hospitals and witnesses.
She said they were faced with numerous challenges which sometimes hinder their investigations.
She said that out of 67 FSUs in the country, only three vehicles are available, while the issue of fuel remains a big challenge, coupled with the lack of forensic evidence lab in the country.
She said the unit’s work demands confidentiality, but the lack of structures was making it difficult for them to adhere to strict confidentiality.
She added that the work of her unit has expanded, although the personnel strength was still low, thus one officer could handle several cases at times.
“There is need for training of personnel on international exposure, leadership as to strengthen them on gathering more evidences on GBV cases, among others. The issue of compromising cases has most times been caused by the parents and guardians and such has made it difficult for us to champion the cases of victims,” she disclosed to the lawmakers.
A senior secondary school 3 pupil, Sharon Evans, commended the committee for the visit and motivational talk, noting that although the topic was not new to some of them, she urged her colleagues to adhere to the message.