Concord Times (Freetown)

2 April 2008

Sierra Leone: Makari Gbanti Women Suffer Violations

Freetown — Chairlady of Massapri village, Kadiatu Conteh disclosed that the dignity of women of Northern chiefdom of Makari Gbanti - where President Ernest Bai Koroma was reported to have been born and raised - is being violated by their male counterparts.

"My former husband abandoned me after giving birth to eight children for him. I am left to eke out a living for five of my children since I lost the three in my infancy," she said noting that infant and maternal mortality rates are high in the chiefdom as it lacks good health facilities like clinics. "I gave birth to all my children through traditional birth attendants," she admitted. She also pointed out that diarrhea is one of the pandemics afflicting the village.

Explaining further, Conteh attested that most of her colleagues are going through similar problems and she blamed their predicaments on lack of good education.

"Most of us are not educated. I believe if we were educated, men would not treat us this way," she said.

And to forestall a recurrence of such instance, Conteh vowed to get the best of education for her children.

"I am going to work very hard to let my children get education. I don't want them to suffer like me," she said.

At 32, Conteh has been married twice and both husbands abandoned her after some pregnancies.

"My first husband left me ten years ago and the other abandoned me after a pregnancy claiming he could not take care of another man's children," she said.

Conteh stays with her parents and works on the farm.

She sells farm produce to nearby Makeni in Bombali district.

Ramatu Sesay of Roketeh said wife battering is also a problem facing the women of the chiefdom. "We are not even allowed to discuss how our husbands beat us because if we do, we'll only be making the situation severe," she said.

Sesay said non-governmental organizations have also been ignoring them as they have been hearing about micro-credits as a means of empowering women but they never benefited from the scheme.

"Our plight is worrisome yet nobody is coming to our aid," she said. In all, she believes life in the chiefdom is terrible.

"Even though we are close to the city, development activities meant for all the women of Sierra Leone have been diverted to other parts of the country that are even farther thus leaving us in penury." She said women in the chiefdom do not have a say in their homes because all decisions are made by their husbands - even to the disadvantage of the wife.

Sesay also maintained that most women in the chiefdom are bread winners. "We are forced to take care of our children and our husbands. We take care of the health of our babies and their education. We go to the farms with our husbands. We do the cooking and we also help them bring the produce to town," she said.

But despite all the troubles meted out to these women, they are hopeful that their problems will soon be solved with the current government in power.

The Northern chiefdom of Makari Gbanti situated 114 miles from the capital of Freetown and four miles from the Northern district of Makeni is one of the underdeveloped chiefdoms in the country.

Head of the four ruling houses in the chiefdom blamed the abandonment by previous governments for the underdevelopment plaguing the chiefdom.

"I hope since Koroma is our own son, he will come to our aid. We lack so many developments. Even our brothers that have tasted the sweetness of wealth have turned their backs against us," the nerving old Pa Dulai Kanu expressed.

Two of the chiefdom's villages Massapri and Roketeh have a population of about 480 people and like many others in Sierra Leone, these people are completely cut off from civilization. The two villages lack schools, health centers, pure drinking water and other social amenities.

The only source of water used for domestic purposes is the village stream. The chiefdom's residents are mostly farmers and small scale entrepreneurs.

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