According to UNICEF, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Sierra Leone is 88%. A recent study notes that the prevalence of FGM/C among the Temne, Mende, and Limba (the 3 largest ethnic groups) is about 80%.
Terre des Femmes notes that a third of girls is cut before the age of 4, another third before the age of 10, and for another third cutting is performed between the age of 10 and adulthood. In 90% of cases, traditional practitioners perform FGM/C. For some girls FGM/C is performed as an initiation into the ‘bondo’/’sande’ secret society. FGM/C is performed as a test of a girl’s strength and willpower, away from the rest of the community. The ‘graduation’, during which the girls learn what they need to know about adulthood, is followed by a big celebration. When they return home, the girls must not speak about what happened during initiation.
The most common type of FGM is excision and reasons for performing FGM/C include beliefs about from social acceptance, hygiene, marriage prospects and virginity.
Sierra Leone FGM/C Experts
Dr Tom Obara Bosire
Dr Bosire has conducted a one year fieldwork study on FGM/C in Sierra Leone and published extensively on Sierra Leone, including his 2013 book Politics of Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Human Rights and the Sierra Leone State: The Case of Bondo Secret Society. He holds a PhD in Sociology, Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences and has spoken about FGM/C at several conferences.
Jacqueline Knörr, Head of Research at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Extraordinary Professor at the Martin Luther University in Halle/Saale, Germany. Professor Knörr was brought up in Ghana and Germany and has for many years conducted extensive field research in Sierra Leone und the Upper Guinea Coast of West Africa more generally, as well as in Indonesia. She has worked as a Lecturer, Senior Researcher, University Professor, Scientific Director, and Political Advisor. She has served as expert witness in about two hundred asylum cases, writing expert reports concerning FGC/M and other human rights issues.
Mariama Conteh is currently an independent peace building and conflict transformation advisor. She has held numerous advisory roles for Sub-Saharan Africa. Ms. Conteh has worked extensively in Sierra Leone since 2002, being based in country for the majority of 2004-2007. She liaises and collaborates with a variety of national and international non-governmental organizations, governments, sub-regional bodies and policy makers. She works closely with individuals and communities across the country and has addressed issues such as FGM/C, mediation, security, justice, governance, gender, youth exclusion, conflict transformation and peace building. Ms. Conteh is currently pursuing her doctorate on the subject of alternatives to post- war trauma interventions with a focus on Sierra Leone and holds a Masters in Development Studies from at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Dr. Bjälkander’s research has provided evidence on types of FGM/C performed, decision makers, the extent of medicalization and short term complications from FGM/C in Sierra Leone. She worked to develop the country’s first national strategy for the reduction of FGM/C. She lectured at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), University of Sierra Leone before working as a consultant for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Sudan. Dr. Bjälkander has published several articles reflecting her research interests in FGM/C, and is a member of WHO’s FGM Research Advisory Group. She received her PhD from, and is an affiliate of, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
Anti-FGM/C Organisations in Sierra Leone
Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM)
AIM is an independent women’s rights organization with the main focus of ending FGM/C.
Center for Human Rights
Center for Human Rights, 19 Main Road Congo Town, Freetown
Tel:+232 33 98 18 68 or +232 33 87 63 59
Contact Person: Ibrahim Badamasi Kamara, LLB, LLM, Director
The Centre for Human Rights (CFHR) is a national human rights NGO located in Freetown. CFHR’s mission is to enhance human rights, good governance, and the rule of law, using a combination of law and advocacy. CFHR focuses on legal aid, access to justice, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, juvenile justice, HIV/AIDS, environment and developmental issues. Their services include pro bono legal services, psychosocial counseling, public interest litigation, and advocacy.
CESMYCO Inter-African Committee Sierra Leone (IACSL)
CESMYCO/IACSL engages with local communities about the harmful effects of practices such as FGM/C, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, male preference, and exclusion of women from political and civil leadership. It raises awareness of reproductive health issues, including HIV/AIDS, that create barriers for women’s development both locally and nationally. The organisation ensures gender equality and promotes women’s and children’s rights. It also advocates at the local and national level for stronger laws and supports mechanisms to prevent gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and male-child preference. The organisation supports the political and economic empowerment of women and children, recognizing the effects this will have on the realization of their rights and equality.
Self Help and Development Everywhere (SHADE)
17 Kukuna Road, Kambia
Founded in 2008, SHADE works in Kambia in various sectors but with specifically women and girls in order to help them realize their full potential. Thus, it has been a critical partner in women empowerment, gender issues and peace building process in Kambia District. SHAEDE is involved in broader activities including facets of psycho-social recovery, general sensitization (community capacity building) with great emphasis on peaceful co-existence and fostering unity in the district. SHADE has helped to build bridges between various sectors of society and continues building network synergies at district level as part of its collaborative efforts in a bid to reinforce and strengthen its ongoing sensitization on gender based violence and harmful traditional practices like FGM/C. The organisation’s strategies in the involvement of local groups provide a sense of ownership of such a delicate endeavor. This significant endeavor aims to foster coexistence, reconciliation, mutual tolerance and respect in the communities. This was done by providing training that contributes to such relations through dialogue, workshops and other structured experiences.
Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone
Women In Crisis Movement (WIC)
WIC seeks to improve the status of women and young girls in extremely difficult socio-economic circumstances through vocational skills training and the promotion of gender issues, including better access to Reproductive Health Services.