Aminata Koroma

Forum Against Harmful practices, Sierra Leone

I am a survivor of FGM/C and I decided that I would the last woman in my family to have to go through it. I was determined to work in this sector and to raise my voice in a country where secret societies dominate and are supported by political parties. FGM/C is such a complex issue in Sierra Leone and it has such a high rate of cutting so that it was absolutely vital that organisations such as the Forum Against Harmful Practices come together as a unified force to advocate nationally and internationally to bring about the end of this violent and sometimes fatal practice. Nine out of ten women and girls in Sierra Leone aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM according to UNICEF reports. Although the country has ratified human rights treaties at the national and regional level, including CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol. Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of FGM in Africa and remains among the few African countries where the practice is not illegal.

FAHP was formally established on the 26th of June 2014 as a national coalition of over 20 National Civil Society Organizations to respond to the increasing need for collaborative working among organizations working towards the reduction and ultimate eradication of Harmful Practices (HP’s). These practices include but are not limited to child/forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which is FAHP’s key focus, which can contribute to reproductive health problems, teenage pregnancy, maternal mortality and violence against Women. FAHP was established to build on the work of the first National Coalition as a unifying force to coordinate the activities of organizations working on the issues of HPs. FAHP holds the view that Harmful Practices (HPs) are so labeled because they impact negatively on the human rights of those concerned and as such, must be replaced over time with progressive and supportive activities that help all Sierra Leoneans to reach their full potential.

Last December we were horrified to learn that a 21-year-old woman was found dead in a bondo bush at Nyandeni village, Imperri Chiefdom, Bonthe district. It was reported that the late Maseray Sei was found dead at approximately 4: 30am on Monday 20th December 2021 having allegedly bled to death after undergoing FGM/C in an initiation with other young women. FAHP and its partners, including the International Community, called for the total abandonment of this harmful practice. We also called on the Ministries of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Social Welfare, Local Government and Rural Development and Political and Public Affairs and all stakeholders to use this unfortunate incident to shift their stances from ‘age of consent’ to total abandonment and a ban of FGM/C.

Our Objectives are to:

a) To develop multi-sectorial approaches for the abandonment of HTPs including advocacy, human rights, education, health, legal framework and sustainable livelihoods for those involve in HTPS especially FGM

b) Enhance community-level action and coordinate activities, information and resources for the membership of FAHP working towards the eradication of HTPs.

c) To promote knowledge sharing and management through linkages with national and international networks and mobilize and manage resources to achieve results consistent with the goal of FAHP.

d) To support building an evidence base on the harmful consequences of HPs through research.

As a national coalition, FAHP covers the five Regions and all the districts of Sierra Leone Our strategies FAHP employs culturally friendly approaches devoid of confrontation which are:

Consultations, dialogue and trainings on the harmful effect of FGM and basic fundamental human Right protocols, conventions and treaties with all sectors of the Society:

  • Ministries line ministries Departments and Agencies Parliamentarians Initiators (Soweis or Digbas)
  • Parents
  • Girls at risk
  • Inter Religious Council
  • Traditional leaders
  • Civil Society organizations

With greater funding and prioritising for the sector striving to end FGM/C we would be able to amplify our demands for the legal and actual end to this terrible practice.