Milestone in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation Sierra Leone

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On December 15th, 2019, we celebrated together with our partner organisation AIM our biggest success in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): more than 100 girls were officially admitted to the Bondo Society, a secret society for women, without taking part in the harmful traditional practice of FGM.

The Bondo Society has existed for centuries and the social and cultural significance of being a member means that being accepted into and recognized by it is a central goal in the life of most Sierra Leonean girls and women. As society members, the girls’ transition from youth into adulthood takes place in the Bondo Bush. Here, for several weeks during the school holidays, former soweis (women who practice FGM) teach them various cultural and traditional skills such as dance, singing and drumming. The girls also learn how to carry out the daily tasks required in their role as wives and mothers, taking care of their husbands, children and communities. Membership of the Bondo Society represents a strong and beautiful solidarity amongst women; the only element of the tradition that is condemnable is the society’s admission criteria of female circumcision.

The fact that FGM is practiced within secret societies makes it difficult to fight it. In Sierra Leone, campaigns and measures against female circumcision can only be successful if the social interplay with religion, culture, witchcraft, social support systems and community are understood and acknowledged. This is exactly what AIM aims to achieve through its multifaceted work, mainly through awareness and sensitization programs and the promotion of education for girls and women – and with great success! For the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, in 2019, female circumcision did not play a role in the admission of new members to the Bondo Society. As the director of AIM, Rugiatu Neneh Turay stated, “We want to eliminate the harmful traditions, but keep the beauty of the Bondo”. With the initiation at the end of 2019, this was achieved for the first time.

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