Sierra Leone’s context
88% of girls and women have undergone FGM in Sierra Leone, where the practice is legal. There is pressure on girls to undergo FGM at an early age which can in turn leads to child marriage or early sexual activity for many young girls.
Child marriage and child pregnancy are a major problem in the country, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Childhood pregnancy accounts for at least 40% of these deaths. Child marriage is technically illegal in Sierra Leone where the law states that you cannot marry before 18, or before 16 if there is parental or equivalent consent. Yet, it has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with 44% of girls and women married before they reach 18. There is also a huge pressure from parents on many girls living in slum areas to enter into early sexual activity as a way to earn and support the family. This is another issue that FORWARD tackles through projects with our partners in Sierra Leone.
- Prevalence of FGM: 88% of girls and women have undergone FGM (UNICEF 2013)
- Campaign against FGM: 26% of girls and women in Sierra Leone think FGM should end (UNICEF 2013)
- Name of FGM: Sunna, Bondo or Sonde
- Legal Status of FGM: FGM is legal
- Prevalence of child marriage: 18% of girls are married by the age of 15, and 44% by the age of 18 (UNICEF 2014)
- Legal status of child marriage: It is illegal to marry under the age of 18 but you can marry from 16 with parental consent
- Maternal mortality: 1,100 per 100,000 live births (WHO 2013)
- Gender based violence: 94% of displaced households reported sexual assault, including rape, torture and slavery during the civil war (Physicians for Human Rights 2002)
- Gender Inequality Index: 183 of 187 countries (UNDP 2013)
Supporting Child Mothers and Vulnerable Girls in Marginalized Communities in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Supported by Wilkinson and Gaskell, FORWARD is implementing a project targeted at child mothers and other vulnerable girls in Sierra Leone. In this second year, local partner Girl to Girl Empowerment Movement (G2G) are working with a targeted 24 child mothers, 17 of whom have returned to formal and vocational education and over 80 girls in networks. The networks meet fortnightly to discuss the key issues of GBV, SRHR and education which disproportionately affect girls and young women living in slum conditions in urban Freetown. To date the networks have discussed FGM and child marriage as social norms and the need for social norm change, sexual abuse its definition, identification, impacts and support services, teenage pregnancy and impacts on life chances of girls and young women and finally, the importance of education as one of main routes out of poverty.
10 young women who opted vocational courses have secured places in 3 institutions – most are doing catering courses. Of the 12 who opted for formal education, 4 have been enrolled in formal schools, 3 have been enrolled to study for the West Africa School Certificate Exams (WASCE)-exams that qualify them to enter tertiary institutions and 3 beneficiaries of a previous project are continuing to receive support via this project. G2G is still working to get the remaining 6 admission into schools.