…As they celebrate 40th anniversary of serving women and children
April 21, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Hundreds of women belonging to the National ‘Sowei’ Council from the Southern and Eastern regions of Sierra Leone yesterday expressed their gratitude to PLAN International for saving their lives during the Ebola outbreak in the country.
According to Vice President of the Council, Elsie Kondolama, during the Ebola outbreak most of their members continued the practice of taking sick people to their secret society bush to cure, adding that they had the conviction they could cure Ebola patients.
“In the course of curing sick people, most of our colleagues contacted the disease and died. It was PLAN International that took the bold step to tell us not to cure sick people anymore. We heeded to the organisation’s advice and we started to take sick people to the hospital,” she disclosed, adding that because of that many ‘Soweis’ were saved from the disease.
She recalled that PLAN International also provided bars of medicated soap, containers of chlorine and Veronica buckets plus assorted food items to ‘Soweis’ in the South-Eastern regions.
“We also want to join the staff and management of PLAN International in observance of the 40th anniversary celebration of the organisation’s existence in Sierra Leone,” she stated.
National Secretary General of Sowei Council, Kharday Zorokong, said PLAN International has been very supportive to ‘Soweis’ in the country. She added that most of them get their livelihood from initiating girls in the ‘Bondo’ society.
“We have pledged to the Office of the First Lady and PLAN International that we will no longer initiate girls below the age of 18. We have agreed also not to initiate any girl without her consent,” she said.
She promised that her organisation would serve as Police to ensure that no girl is initiated below the age of 18.
Casely Ato Cole, Country Director of Plan International in Sierra Leone, said the ‘Soweis’ were the first group of people to have come back to thank PLAN for what was done for them during the Ebola outbreak.
He said PLAN started operation in Sierra Leone on 29 September, 1976 and that this is their 40th year of working with children and women in the country.
He noted that since PLAN International supports children and women, he would ensure that women are given the requisite resources to carry on with their activities without harming anyone.
The Country Director recalled that during the Ebola crisis, PLAN managed the Ebola Treatment Centre in Port Loko.
“We took Ebola behavioural change sensitisation to members of the secret society. We also support the National Children’s Commission to develop its strategic plan. We have also put up a multi-purpose building for the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs,” he said and added that PLAN supported the construction of a youth camp for Ebola survivors.
He disclosed that they have supported the girls’ education challenge which seeks to help girls as well as children with disability, adding that PLAN has constructed 140 houses for flood victims in Bo district.
Currently, he noted, PLAN is supporting the development of a new law on Child Marriage as well amendments to the Child Rights Act. He revealed also that PLAN was on the verge of extending their activities to two new districts in the country.