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Celebrating The Girl Conference and Radio Programme, Kenema City, Sierra Leone

By Rugiatu Turay,


The Amazonian Initiative Movement [AIM-SL] with funds from the Global Media Campaign [GMC] has celebrated the International the Girl Child Day. This day was observed in Kenema City, the regional headquarters in the Eastern province.

Introduction:

This year’s celebration of the girl child day is marked to abolish all forms of injustices and hatred against the daughters of the world with the theme ‘Digital generation, our generation’, which gears towards accelerating the awareness of the importance of digital devices to the girl child and how it can positively impact her life. This is because; girls can be better rulers and great entrepreneurs in the world.

This celebration focuses on the need to address the challenges faced by girls and also to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
In his welcome address to the participants, Mr. Abdul Koroma a focal teacher from the Islamic Secondary school in Kenema expressed thanks and appreciation to AIM and its donors for choosing Kenema to observe this year’s girl child day. He also reiterated the fact that indeed a girl child is like a gem in the universe and should be protected and safeguarded from all forms of injustices and harmful practices that hinders their general wellbeing.

Mr. Koroma furthered that AIM Sierra Leone has worked immensely in breaking the silence on harmful practices that many thinks should not be discussed in public though the lives of many women and girls have been shattered through such practices. He also affirmed to the participants that, the international girl child day is hardly celebrated in the Kenema district not to talk of its rural communities, he, therefore, pleaded to AIM and its donors to continue creating the platforms through which women and girls can share their experience and actualize their full potentials he said.

In her opening statements, the program director of AIM-SL Madam Rhoda P Gbla, informed the school pupils and their teachers that, this year’s girl child day focuses on how the girl child can have equal access to the world of technology and how to wisely use it in-order improve on their educational career. She furthered that, for far too long girls have been deprived of accessing digital devices which she said has immensely contributed to the poor performance of girls in their education and also in the socialisation process.

She however encouraged school pupils to make use of the technology wisely in terms of education, health, and their general wellbeing. In her conclusion, Madam Gbla reiterated that the girl child has suffered injustices and hate-redness from both the parents and the general society. She confirmed to the participants that, the girl child is equally important as the boy child and equal treatments should be given to all.

“Childhood discrimination between boys and girls in the household has been the root cause of the increase in violence against women and girls in society.” Madam Rhoda P Gbla Click To Tweet

Therefore, Injustices and hates against women and girls start when boys are excluded from doing house chores. For far too long the male child has been given special reference in-terms education and freedom on socialization with no cautioning from parents/caregivers, Its therefore very important to note that, such freedom should also be accorded to the girl child, she needs the freedom to explore and learn new initiatives because they can be leaders and great people in society.

She ends her statements by pleading to all participants to realize that, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation [FGM] have put the lives of many girls and women into a miserable condition, it is a practice that many have regretted today. Therefore, every girl and woman is important in society, and therefore, no one should be subjected to any form of violence in the name of culture.

Statements from participants:

Bintu Lansana a teacher from the College secondary school in Kenema, complements AIM for their strides in empowering women and girls in the Southeast part of Sierra Leone especially on issues which for many years have been considered as taboo or even threat to talk about in public.

But the intervention of AIM in the Southeast has created the platform through the long-existing silence on FGM has been broken.

AIM has also educated the general populace on how to maintain the Bondo culture and to remove the harmful aspect which is FGM. Speaking on the importance of the girl child day, Madam Lansana encouraged the participants and even emphasised that they are the luckiest of generations, this is because lots of programmes have been designed to educate and empower the girl child something which she said has not been in existence before.

She encouraged the girls to be focused-minded and follow such programmes which will help them to realize their fullest potentials and the sky will surely be their limit. Moreover, Ms. Lansana emphasised that the importance of this year’s theme which she said, the world is largely dependent on technology, and if you use it wisely you can gain immensely but if you misuse it, then your future will be miserable as a girl. She, therefore, Pleaded to the girls to make good use of their smartphones especially school-going girls, there are good materials in google which can be of help in improving girls’ education she said.

Aminata Jalloh a student and also a member of the school clubs of influence from the Islamic Secondary school in Kenema thanked AIM for the establishment of the clubs of influence which she said has immensely helped in educating her so certain issues she never before and she now knows her basic rights and responsibilities as a girl child.

I now know the negative effects of o FGM such as; the economic, social, and health effects it has not only on women and girls but on the wider community. She also confirmed that this has been her first time to ever know about the international day of the girl child.

Aminata Jalloh further stated that indeed there are many good materials to gain from smartphones, In my experience as a student, she said ‘ I always use Googlee to search for words which either my school teachers or principal used that I don’t understand and this has been helpful to me. The challenges we have been facing as girls in this digital world is that both the school authorities and society always frown at us when using smartphones thinking that it’s for boyfriends’ communication, this has been the key factor why we have been restricted from accessing phones. But when you take a look into our male counterparts it’s the real opposite. This level of injustices and hatred perpetrated towards the girl child is too much and we are silently suffering’ she said.

In her conclusion, Aminata Jallaoh pointed out that, if the girl child is to progress, more actions and programs are needed at the community level because many girls are going through a lot. Jalloh pleaded to her colleague girls to put more effort into their education and to use their smartphones wisely to silent their haters she ends.

Baindu Momoh a student and also a member of the school clubs of influence in the Methodist girls school in Kenema says, for far too long the girl child is seen like a thrash both in the family and the society as a whole. Girls have been rejected and pushed from accessing their basic rights. Girls have been subjected to all forms of discrimination ranging from sexual and gender-based violence, rituals, female genital mutilation, and economic exploitation have all contributed to the slow pace of girls’ development in our society.

I vividly remembered last academic year when I called my mother in the village and informed her that I came first in my promotional exams, all she could say was, ‘ I have been putting things in place for your initiation into FGM which is due in the summer holiday’. I was very much confused and not knowing what to do, I was in this situation not until when I was selected to attend a training workshop on FGM in my school there I was able to realize the dangerous plans of my mother she said, I was bold enough to tell my mother that I will never be a party to FGM initiation. Many girls have become school drop out as a result of FGM practice; she, therefore, called on AIM and its donor partners to brace up their campaigns against female genital mutilation especially in the South and Eastern regions where the practice has been heavily influenced by politicians. I would have been a victim of FGM had it not been for the timely intervention of AIM Sierra Leone she ends.

Baindu Momoh

According to Mr. Sidie Koroma a focal teacher from the College secondary school in Kenema, he expressed his profound thanks and appreciations to AIM for their relentless efforts in empowering women and girls through education and information, he said, has immensely helped in transforming the lives of many young women and girls especially the school-going population with knowledge on the dangers of FGM and basic human rights.

“Many years back there was little or no knowledge on the dangers of female genital mutilation [FGM] not to talk about its public discussion as it was and still considered as a taboo. Gradually the discussion of female circumcision has… Click To Tweet

The girl child needs appropriate care and attention if only we want to see a progressive nation, women, and girls count the highest percentage in the nation’s population, therefore, if appropriate care and attention are not given to them, then their growth and development will not be actualized.

Mr. Koroma ends his statements by pleading to the school-going girls to be more focused and be prepared to cope with the threats and challenges in society. He promised the participants that, with quality education, girls can be world leaders and investors.

Madam Jalahan from WE GYAL PIKIN FOUNDATION in Kenema, in her statements, Madam Jalahan lamented the physical beauty of the girl child which she said should be a motivational weapon for them to strike harder to become women of substance in society. She urged the girl child to know that, they have all that it takes to achieve in life and are capable of holding any leadership position in society through education. She furthered that, the international day of the girl child is a platform that focuses to address all forms of discrimination and injustices the girl child is facing, this day should therefore serve as a springboard for the girl child to start figuring out things of great importance and to make an informed decision about their lives. Many women and girls have been going through a lot in society as a result of being subjected to female genital mutilation.

It is therefore important in this day for girls to realize the dangers surrounding the practice of FGM through this knowledge they can deny any attempt in their communities with regards to FGM initiation. In conclusion, Madam Jalahan says girls should be given the freedom to explore new ideas through technology because they have the potentials of becoming great leaders. Parents and teachers should be mentors and motivators and not distractors and tormentors to the girl child.

                               Achievements:

Participants were able to understand the rationale of the girl child and also, girls in the conference room were able to contextualize this year’s theme into their daily life experiences and how they can make positive use of the digital world to conquer societal threats and challenges and also improve on their general wellbeing.

                                        Challenges:

It was crystal from the girls that, challenges and threats are huge from schools authorities and the general communities with regards to accessing smartphones. Girls have been bullied and given names by teachers and family members just to discourage them from accessing digital devices.

                               Recommendations:

AIM-SL and its donors to continue the engagements with schools authorities and parents/caregivers in-order to sensitize them on the protection and promotion of girls’ rights and how to end all forms of injustices and hatred against the girl child.
The conference was climaxed with a radio discussion program where members of the school clubs of influence, school teachers, and civil society members were the panelists.

Ruth Harley

Ruth Harley is an opera singer, writer, and creative. She is running The Women’s Vinyl Project which empowers women and girls through singing and music. She is working with GMC as the Website News Editor, compiling stories written by End FGM campaigners working with the Global Media Campaign to End FGM across Africa.