Young woman dies after undergoing FGM in Makeni, Sierra Leone
Wednesday 17th August 2016
London based African women’s charity FORWARD received reports from our partner organisation (Girl2Girl Empowerment Movement- G2G) through the Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP)* on Tuesday 16th August of a young woman named Fatmata Turay, 19 years old, having died after undergoing FGM as part of her Bondo initiation. FGM in Sierra Leone forms part of an initiation, a rite of passage, for girls, signifying their readiness for marriage and womanhood. It is part of girls’ entry into the Bondo Society, a powerful women-run secret society central to culture and identity in Sierra Leone. Membership to the society provides girls with comradeship, support and power in an otherwise male dominated society. Sierra Leone represents one of the countries in Africa where talking about FGM remains a strong taboo.
As a result of the death three of the Bondo initiators (soweis – the women who perform FGM) and a nurse have been arrested by Makeni Police Force and the case is still being investigated, for this we commend their fast action.
FORWARD is devastated to hear of yet another loss of life due to the harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). 19 year old Fatmata Turay was a student at UMC Secondary School in Makeni, Sierra Leone and was in the 4th year of her studies. FORWARD and partners Girl2Girl Empowerment Movement (G2G) find this case highlights the urgent need for the total abandonment of FGM as part of the secret Bondo ceremony. The death of Fatmata proves that there is no safe time for FGM to be performed, whether on young girls or adult women.
FORWARD’s other partners Advocacy Movement Network (AMNet) has been able to successfully get 10 out of 12 districts in Sierra Leone to sign agreements with the Sowies to ban ‘pikin bondo’ (the initiation of children i.e. girls under 18) over the last few years and the Government of Sierra Leone has made this a priority in its Agenda for Prosperity. It is noteworthy that during the Ebola crisis, the Government banned all FGM ceremonies and this ban has not yet been lifted.
FORWARD and G2G urge the Government to not allow one more girls life to be taken in vain and to declare a total ban on FGM in Sierra Leone. The other traditions and knowledge shared within the Bondo initiation could continue to be taught to girls and young women without the harmful human rights abuse of FGM taking place.
FGM is an entrenched harmful practice that has affected more than 130 million girls and women globally. In Sierra Leone FGM is almost universal, with a national average of 89.6% of women having undergone FGM, reaching 96% in the northern region .
* FAHP is a coalition of CSOs working on ending Harmful Traditional practices in Sierra Leone.
Notes to Editors:
• For media enquiries please contact: Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse: [email protected] and call +44 (0)7572 162530 or +44 (0)20 8960 4000.
• FORWARD is an African Diaspora women led UK campaign and support charity dedicated to advancing and safeguarding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of African girls and women. FORWARD works in the UK, Europe and Africa to help change practices and policies that affect access, dignity and wellbeing. www.forwarduk.org.uk Twitter: @FORWARDUK
• FORWARD has been campaigning against FGM and other forms of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) affecting African women and girls for 30 years.