Kindergarten and Amazonian Bilingual School against Female Genital Mutilation Rolal, Sierra Leone

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In 2013, PfefferminzGreen’s Stella Rothenberger asked Rugiatu Neneh Turay, founder and director of AIM, “What would you do if you had the available funding?”. Rugiatu answered, “I would build a school. A school for girls and boys, because they are the next generation and only together can they stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Education is the key in the fight against FGM!”

A few days later, Rugiatu submitted a project proposal in which she outlined the objectives and goals of the Amazonian Bilingual School in Rolal, Sierra Leone. She says that FGM is a cultural ritual that can be eliminated primarily through “educational opportunities and strengthening the rights of young women”, and education therefore plays a central role in the fight against it. Women who have not been circumcised are usually marginalized by the community and have little chance of getting married or starting a family.

From the very beginning, AIM involved the surrounding communities in the planning and construction of the Amazonian Bilingual School, offering educational programs raising awareness about its objectives. Rugiatu and her team regularly visited Rolal and the surrounding village communities, holding focus group discussions to talk about the benefits of a formal school education as well as the negative consequences of FGM. AIM’s central method, according to Rugiatu, is the involvement of all the different community stakeholders from the planning to the implementation of a project. Young and old, men and women, the elderly; traditional and religious leaders, Paramount Chiefs (highest level of tribal leader), town chiefs; everybody is involved. They decided on the location of the school building together, as well as the areas of activity of the village members who helped during the construction phase and the possibilities of involving parents in daily school life. The aim of these roundtables is to give every person within the community a voice, regardless of age and gender. 

The value of school education is something that is discussed repeatedly throughout the entire project. Most families in Sierra Leone live exclusively from subsistence farming, which often makes it difficult for parents and grandparents to understand the benefits of schooling their children. As a result of extreme poverty and the lack of job opportunities in the region, many villagers consider school attendance to be unnecessary. The majority of people do recognize the future prospects that come about from going to school, but since there are only a few schools in Sierra Leone and the children often have to travel long distances to reach one, many families are unable to provide their children with an education.

In addition to providing school education from kindergarten age to secondary school, literacy classes are also offered for adults. This is not only to involve the parents’ generation in formal education, but also to develop their future prospects.

Find out more about Fight against FGM

Find out more about Amazonian Bilingual School 

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