Fighting female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone
5 June, 2012: The tradition of female genital mutilation continues to threaten many girls across Africa. The procedure leaves many girls in pain and at greater risk to other health risks, infections and long-term reproductive issues.
In Sierra Leone, Plan is fighting to stop female genital mutilation. By breaking the silence of girls and raising awareness of the harmful and even deadly effects of this practise, Plan aims to empower women and put a stop to FGM (female genital mutilation).
This week, members of the German Bundestag Alliance 90 Green Parliamentary group for Health in Developing Countries visited Sierra Leone to show their support for Plan’s work against FGM.
Education and information are key tools in stopping harmful practises and changing behaviours. Especially when the behaviour has long been accepted by a community as is the case with FGM. By making this practise and its severe risks known, many communities are now realising how this tradition is negatively affecting girls and women.
“We cannot understand why this practise developed in our communities. This is a human rights violation against girls, that puts them in danger for their lives for tradition,” explains Michaella, a Senior Secondary School pupil from the Port Loco region.
Breaking the silence
Breaking the silence on this issue is a project that started 3 years ago, in partnership with the Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR) and National Movement for Emancipation and Progress (NaMEP) in Port Loko and Bombali Districts.
Now, because the stigma and silence have started to crack, FGM is now a topical issue which is discussed on television and radio. Reporters are now being trained how to report professionally and sensitively on FGM to help spread the word and put a stop to the tradition.
Plan in Action
Plan’s work with FGM in Sierra Leone has reached 60 communities in Port Loko and Bombali Districts. More than 6,000 children have been reached and almost 12,000 community members across the regions.
As well as raising awareness, Plan has been encouraging girls to enrol in schools and attend classes. By keeping girls in education, they can learn about the severe effects of FGM and no longer have to leave school for the sake of this tradition.
“Now we no longer have to leave school for this painful initiation into the society,” explains Michaella.
Read more about FGM in Africa