Sierra Leone campaigners continue ending FGM, despite little political support

Sierra Leone campaigners continue ending FGM, despite little political support

By Team Freetown,

Team Freetown, in their response to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Gender-Based Violence incidences in the Western Area Rural and Urban Districts, of the Republic of Sierra Leone, during the Easter holidays, with Direct Support from Global Media Campaign (GMC), established the outreach methods whereby the Team and its leader went on a door to door campaign and sensitization on the hazards of FGM and other related harmful traditional practices and its effect on survivors.

Media activities…

The team had media engagements in which a specific case of an eight years old child was captured, the team engaged a school, police station, and the community as a whole for them to be able to respond to FGM issues as and when they occur, and to prevent potential FGM cases from occurring, in their communities. The team created referral pathways, i.e through the Police. Leading the Community radio programmes included a Police Officer, a Journalist, and a Teacher. The programs were moderated by the leader of the team a Lawyer.

There was also a show with the Grand Parent of a potential victim and the potential victim was also in attendance at the Radio Station in Waterloo. Leading callers in the community Radio Program in waterloo are social workers, community stakeholders, teenage schoolgirls, and other important structures within the Community. The calls targeted largely women and girls who are yet to be initiated, and also girls who survive incidences of FGM and other harmful traditional practices. The Team, in Summary, embarked on community, Radio, and School outreach awareness-raising on FGM for Women and Girls who are vulnerable within the context of the Western Area of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Theres more work to do:

Nearly every other month, Global Media Campaign (GMC) supports Teams of Young vibrant, and dynamic Sierra Leoneans to respond to FGM in Sierra Leone, this move is inspired largely by with and for girls, using the Media to raise great awareness against FGM. Since the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for action, GMC is at the forefront through its teams including but not limited to Team Freetown to tackle FGM and other Harmful Traditional Practices in Sierra Leone mostly perpetrated against girls.

Team Freetown with support from GMC has provided through its media Campaigns free and credible information for public consumption on the incidences of FGM, and other Harmful Traditional Practices in Sierra Leone.

Celebrating the achievements of women…

Team Freetown as part of this Year’s Easter celebration organized a friendly chat for teenage schoolgirls in the Western Area. The team had a roundtable chat with the girls on the concept of FGM. The session on Easter Sunday lasted for 4 hours and it was highly interactive with the girls sharing their real-life experiences.

Team Freetown with the support of GMC for this Easter celebration indicated the achievements women and girls have made nationally and internationally. These achievements include the fact that more girls today are attending and completing school, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers while still children and more are gaining the skills they need to excel in the future world of work.

Our team engaged largely with the Media and had a physical one-on-one discussion with the Girls at a round table. The event is meant to empower teenage girls on how to respond to FGM issues wherever they occur in their schools and within their communities and homes.

Future needs:

Going forward, as the rate of FGM reported cases is still increasing in schools amidst rigorous efforts by different players including GMC and Team Freetown, there was and is still a growing need to have teenage girls’ friendly chat and radio discussions during this year’s Easter Response to empower Teenage School Girls on FGM Response. The new approaches employed by Team Freetown this Easter gives Women and Girls the opportunity to discuss new ways of Addressing FGM at their schools, and communities and buy experiences from one and other.

Scope of the project:

The Easter response by Team Freetown captured a wide range of audiences ranging from mainly young girls, journalists, parents, clergy, traditional groups, etc… This approximately captures an audience of well over 1 Million People.

The length of hours of the Radio programs and the round table discussions made for this. This was done to achieve great learning outcomes and also for the audience to be provided with an opportunity to participate in the discussion towards the end of FGM in Sierra Leone.

Success in activities…

The Programs were highly engaging, girls during each event asked many questions, provided several case studies from personal experiences, and experiences around others from their communities, one such example was the case of Augusta M. Conteh an 8 Years old girl who made bold to tell us that the father was pursuing her to be initiated but for the intervention of her Grandmother who stopped that move.

Meanwhile, the matter has been reported to the Waterloo Police Station by Team Freetown. As such, the girls demonstrated not only a high level of knowledge and experience but also a strong willingness to learn from both the team and their peers.

It is also of note that during the Radio Sessions in Waterloo, the general public demonstrated a very high interest in the discussions and were willing to forsake the practice of FGM, as it became clear in our engagements that the practice was not only violent and archaic but internecine and brutal. Critical but very relevant issues were raised during the radio programs and the round table discussion.

Outcomes…

Women and girls reported high satisfaction with the quality of Response overall by Team Freetown and the high level of maturity demonstrated by the teenage girls. Others commenting that they had in-depth knowledge and views around the subject of FGM now more than ever.

All and sundry were deeply moved by the level of professionalism demonstrated by Zachariah Azibo Kanu Esq. Leader of Team Freetown in the general conduct of the events.

Challenges faced:

Language Barrier: As the program was done in English and Krio, some rural people who could neither hear nor understand both were constrained to participate, it was a challenge because we learned that those rural people were mostly the traditionalists who would not give up on FGM, hence we regretted not been able to reach them through the various local dialects.

Time Management: Time management was also another constraint encountered by the team as people showed up in some cases late, especially in the round table discussion.

General Behaviour and Conduct: We found it challenging dealing with the conduct of some people, more so when men were discussing FGM, some felt it was a taboo, and were quick to insult some of the team members.

Lessons learned:

The length of Time for future events and engagements must be extended to be able to cover more people and topics on FGM ineptly.
Feedbacks were informally collected, in the future, to strengthen our monitoring and evaluation, written feedback should be collected using specifically designed evaluation forms.

Supported by Culture of Resistance

Sierre Leone activists have had a struggle with little funding, a US foundation Culture of Resistance stepped into the breach at Easter, funding all 5 key media campaigns that ran over Easter. While on the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone on the Tano River region preparations are underway there to extend the media campaign work.

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.