28 February 2011

Sierra Leone: Health Worker Faces Threats From Soweis

Freetown — As many advocacy groups continue to preach against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - believed by many as a barbaric cultural practice in Sierra Leone - a dedicated health care worker in the Moyamba District has come under severe threats from a group of Bondo secret society women due to his advocacy against the practice.

Mama Fanny has been relentless in advocating and encouraging women to avoid initiating their little girls into the Bondo society, citing long-term health complication and the general well-being of women. Such advocacy is said to have angered especially the initiators into the society locally known as 'Soweis', thus the repeated threats to harm her if she continues with her campaign.

Concord Times learnt that in January this year, a group of Bondo secret society women in Shenge Village in the Moyamba District, who still believe and rely on this practice for their survival, has waged a persecution war against Mama Fanny. "They are threatening her with death, harassment and exile from the village," a family friend in Shenge who preferred anonymity, told this medium.

He said several reports had been made to the police but that action was yet to be taken "due to political interference or pressure". Some politicians, he alleged, are providing funding and support for initiation into the Bondo secret society as a political move to win votes.

Several rights groups across the country have been advocating for an end to FGM practice but government is too shy to take a position on the issue for fear of losing political sympathy from Sierra Leonean women who believe in the practice.

As a news organisation, we want to join other advocacy groups in urging the various human rights organizations in the country to intervene and ensure they defend the right of an innocent dedicated health care worker.

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