Jacqueline C Samuels

Covenant Foundation for Girls, Liberia

The Covenant Foundation for Girls was set up after the death of a girl from medical complications after being cut. There was so much secrecy because it was part of a secret society ritual and her death was hushed up. A group of people then came together to establish themselves against the secrecy of the group and bring to light what had happened. That was in 2010. The organisation was reestablished in 2016 to advocate for the end of FGM/C and open up the pandora’s box of the complex problems that the cutting of a girl or women creates.

We advocate for human rights and sexual health rights, breaking the silence of the tradition shame and the oppressive culture around cutting. We present ourselves to influential leaders in the community and the countries with our strong human rights agenda to raise awareness of all the issues around FGM/C. It is really, really challenging to do that in Liberia because like Sierra Leone the secret societies are very powerful. We have gone to run workshops and talks have had the Chief being very aggressive and wanting to know if we have been cut before he lets us proceed.

Greater funding will help us travel across Liberia but also to create strong networks worldwide to amplify the universal harm that this practice causes. We are unafraid to speak of the way FGM/C cuts across the entire being of a person because sexual enjoyment is difficult and you are expected to bear the pain in silence. I see FGMC as a form of torture with massive human rights implications. My own grandmother was a cutter and I witnessed that they used to have to subdue the girls before they cut them and I saw them using just 1 tool for more than 50 people so the risk of spreading disease is incredibly high.

Greater funding would enable our vibrant, passionate organisation highlight that even though Liberia is a founding member state of the United Nations, all sorts of violence and oppression is inflicted on women. Does the UN really want a member state that actively hurts and damages women and girls under the guise of cultural tradition? This is a cultural heritage or tradition that has no positive values whatsoever. The UN should make the end of FGM/C a condition of membership.