By Garmah Lomo
VEZELA, LOFA COUNTY: Vezela, Lofa County was a place of attraction when residents including traditional Zoes and chiefs gathered to witness the closing ceremony of the Sande society bush.
The event took place under a kitchen built with reed covered with palm Tarth and well decorated with orange Lappa from both outside and inside.
After several advocacies from human rights activists, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Civil Society organizations and several others, Lofa County has finally joined other counties to close the Sande Society Bush through the sponsorship of UN women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR and WHO in support for zero tolerance against Female Genitalia Mutilation.
Lofa County has joined Nimba, Montserrado, Bong and Grand Cape Mount Counties in closing the Sande bushes and putting end to FGM practices.
The closing program of the Sande society bush school was graced by Zoes, chiefs and elders and traditional leaders of the county including several guests from EU, UK, Sweden and Japan among others.
In a joint statement from New York read by the UN Women Country Representative Madam Comfort Lamptey stated that on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for for Female Genitalia mutilation, we reaffirm our dedication to the girls and women who have been subjected to this grave violation of human rights.
Madam Lamptey added that every survivor’s voice is a call to action and every choice they make in reclaiming their lives contributes to the global movement to end this harmful practice.
The head of the UN Women noted that more than 200 Million girls and women alive today have undergone female Genitalia mutilation. This year, nearly 4.4 million girls will be at risk of this harmful practice. This equates to more than 12,000 cases every day.
“In keeping with the commitment outlined in the Beijing declaration conference on population and development, Gender equality and other normative frameworks including the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and convention on the rights of the child and their general recommendations as well as sustainable development goals target 5.3, we reiterate our commitment to the prevent and respond to this harmful practice against women and girls”, she said.
She indicated that female genitalia mutilation is a violation of women’s and girl rights, one that endangers their physical and mental health and limits their potential to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. It increases their risk of serious pain, bleeding and infections and the livelihood of other health complications later in life including risks during child birth which can imperil the lives of their newborns.
According to her, that is why, in their pursuit of a world of a discrimination and practices that harm girls and women, it is imperative that we turn our attention to the voices that matter most, the voices of survivors.
“We must amplify the voices of survivors to raise awareness and inspire collective action and promote their power and autonomy by ensuring they have an active role in prevention and response interventions” the statement said.
The statement further disclosed that survivors have first-hand knowledge of the challenges they face and the tools needed to eliminate the practice. It is crucial that we invest in survivors led movements especially, at the grassroots level by dedicating resources that will advance their efforts.
“We also must ensure that comprehensive and culturally sensitive services are available and accessible. This includes strengthening the provision of health care and social and legal service to support community champion and leaders and ensuring their voices and perspectives inform programmes to prevent and respond to FGM. Indeed, investing in movement building and promoting girls and women’s agency is at the core of the UN joint programme on eliminating FGM”, she said.
The UN women head in Liberia celebrated the progress that been achieved on the practice of FGM. The practice of FGM has been declining over the last three decades and in the 31 Countries with nationally representative prevalence data around one in three girls aged fifteen to nineteen have undergone the practice versus one in two in the 1990s.
“As of last year, the joint programme supported more than 11,000 organizations of which 83 per cent were grassroots organizations partnering with coalition and survivors-led movements advocating for changes in policies and laws championing changes to social and gender norms.
“Yet there is an urgent need for even more targeted, coordinated and sustainable efforts if we are to achieve our common goal of ending female genitalia mutilation by 2030. Together led by survivors, we can consign this harmful practice to history once and for all.
Also giving the over view of the program, Liberia’s Cultural Ambassador Julie Endee said, FGM is a human rights violation that dessert our society.
Amb. Endee reaffirmed her commitment to promoting the rights of all girls in Liberia adding that five out of eleven counties who are practicing FGM have performed the traditional rituals to put an end to this old age program.
She disclosed that she will continue to mobilize and engage stakeholders to pass the FGM bill.
“Women in Liberia will continue to promote initiation without mutilation,” she concluded.
For his part, a representative from the Sweden embassy lauded the traditional female Zoes and pledged the Sweden embassy commitment to working with them.
The representative of the Swedish embassy added he has seen the manifestation of the change the citizens desired to see on driving through.
He therefore committed his embassy commitment to support traditional Zoes through skills training programs.