In Sierra Leone: abandonning FGM to save money

In “Seeking to save money, Sierra Leone village gives up FGM”, Nellie Peyton presents the special case of the Thawuya village (Sierra Leone) where economic costs surrounding the practice of FGM were so important that they progressively gave it up.

FGM was practiced as a part of a huge initiation ceremony forcing the community, even its poorest members, to spend lots of money for its organization.

“A two-week festival of initiations happens several times a year and costs the entire village a lot of money, requiring new clothes, a feast, and fees to be paid by parents and cutters. (…) “During the initiations, you have to provide a lot of food” said Pa Alimamy Yakuba, the chief of Thawuya, a village of about 1,000 people in Sierra Leone’s Port Loko district. “Now that we have stopped, we have savings.””

Abandoning the practice of FGM has allowed the community to improve it’s living conditions, saving money and resources. The burden weighing upon the poorest farmers was drastically reduced and money that used to be set aside for the ceremonies can now be dedicated to improving children’s well-being and education.

“”We are really seeing the benefits of removing the shrine because a lot of young girls are protected now” said chief Yakuba. He does not believe anyone has been cut since he banned the practice, and said community members are on the look-out. Villagers, young and old, cited savings as the first benefit of abandoning their tradition. One village elder said she was happy to stop FGM because the money could be used to send her grandchildren to school.”

One of the biggest issues the community had to face was the professional reorientation of the cutters who were paid to practice FGM. Adult literacy classes were offered and some of them turned to farming. They are also currently thinking of organising  an alternative rite of passage though funding is still an issue.

“She (a former minister turned campaigner) is envisioning a new kind of ceremony with no FGM, where women are taught leadership skills and menstrual health. We think the social aspects of Bondo are key” said Turay. “We don’t want to lose our culture.””

The full article is available here 

“The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation” is part of the “Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM” project, supported by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM”.
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.

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