C/O National Elections Committee
Sawi Rd, Freetown, Sierra Leone
by Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, Phd.
Co-Founder of Sierra Leone Women Are Free to Choose
Thank all of you for being here this morning and on such short notice. Like doctors, journalists are on call 24/7 - right? And, you have a critical role to play in a democracy, as the forth estate. In the case of the topic at hand, female circumcision or as opponents refer to the practice, female genital mutilation(FGM), we are pleased to introduce ourselves to you, to provide you with alternative views and experiences so that your reporting can be more balanced on this issue. For too long, the media has been used as an effective weapon or coercive tool by anti-FGM activists to body shame circumcised women and girls and draw us into their own genital self-image and power hang-ups.
Today this ends. Today we begin to put a stop to this mess. Today we launch Sierra Leone Women are Free to Choose as well as the fall edition of SiA Magazine and our 2016 campaign “imitated not mutilated” (with the appropriate hashtag, of course). SLWAFC is a local chapter of All Women are Free to Choose Inc (AWAFC), a Washington DC based international advocacy organization for the promotion of inter and intra gender equality of circumcised women and girls globally.
Our “imitated not mutilated” campaign celebrates the aesthetic benefits of Sierra Leone’s female circumcision procedures. Our traditional female genital aesthetic operations are being imitated and marketed by western doctors and hailed by their predominantly white female patients of all ages who undergo labiaplasty, clitoroplexy and other identical forms of so-called female genital cosmetic surgeries. Our key focus is on raising awareness among grassroots Sierra Leonean women and adolescent girls of their constitutional rights in the face of highly organized and aggressive anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) campaigns.
We will also raise awareness among circumcised women and adolescent girls of the hypocrisy of these campaigns and efforts to deny the women of Sierra Leone our universal human rights to equality, dignity and self-determination with respect to our ancestral traditions.
SLWAFC fully supports current Government efforts to promote adult-only initiation into Bondo. This is a recognition of the right of adult women to choose what to do with their own bodies. Within Bondo, excision involves the removal of excess clitoral foreskin or the exposed glans (the bulk of the clitoris is beneath the skin and cannot be removed) as well as trimming of the labia minorae. Sierra Leonean adult women are entitled to the same autonomy, dignity and privacy in undergoing these procedures as white western women who opt for identical cosmetic operations in their own countries.
Recent incidents in Sierra Leone and outside, provoked primarily by The Guardian in Britain, Forward UK and Equality Now in the US were maliciously designed to embarrass the Government of Sierra Leone, the Minster of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, to disrespect the Sowei Council and fuel incendiary political divisions among elite women in our various Ministries. These incidents I refer to include false rumors surrounding the tragic death of 19 year old Fatmata Turay that were propagated worldwide by Equality Now, Forward UK and the individuals and groups they fund in Sierra Leone; false reports about a Sierra Leonean couple being arrested at at UK airport and an 11 year-old girl taken away into care; false reports filed in a UK law court by a so-called FGM survivor against a high-ranking Sowei who was part of the official delegation to the Geneva conference on the Convention of the Rights of the Child; and now serious allegations about a 28 year old being forcibly mutilated by another high-ranking Sowei.
Of greatest concern, because of the delicate diplomatic undertones, is the audacity of Dfid UK to publish an international bid on a 6 million pound anti-FGM Strategy for the Republic of Sierra Leone, behind the back of The Government of Sierra Leone and the relevant Ministry head. The last I checked, Sierra Leone is a sovereign nation, no longer under British colonial rule. We will take up each of these incidents with our legal advisor and representatives of the Government of Sierra Leone.
These incidents, instigated by The Guardian, Forward UK and Equality Now and supported by Dfid and the UK Government, are designed to break the resistance and resolve of Sierra Leonean women as we stand our ground. These incidents are intended to punish Bondo and especially the Sowei Council, for making life a little difficult for their anti-FGM campaigns in Sierra Leone. As the founder of SLWAFC and a proud Bondo member, let me make clear to my sisters here at home in Sierra Leone and abroad - the urgency to know and defend our rights is now. This movement is not simply about defending or celebrating our culture, but asserting our rights and equality with other women in the world, especially western women and their appropriation of so-called designer vaginas. We stand firm; we hold our heads up high; we celebrate our identity and rejoice in our Bondo because we are imitated not mutilated!
So, The Guardian, Forward, Equality Now you can make us the targets of your slick, well-orchestrated international antics and harp on with psychologically abusive anti-FGM campaigns (your FGM “survivors” here in Sierra Leone will happily spend your money). You can police “suspect” African women and inspect African girls’ vaginas at your airports all you want but guess what, Bondo will not be banned in Sierra Leone. I repeat Bondo will not be banned in Sierra Leone. As long as white British women and girls are enjoying the benefits of our female circumcision practices, Bondo will not be banned in Sierra Leone. White women and their daughters will continue to imitate us, but they can never be us, and you can never beat us!
Just like our Secretary of the Sowei Council Kaday Zaratong, we will meet you back at the UN table as full equals and partners in global health policies that affect the bodies of all women and girls, with no special white privilege. Get used to it.
We look forward to engaging with all stakeholders and welcome a robust debate in Sierra Leone about the benefits of Bondo excision operations that are being imitated in the West and the importance of Bondo’s inimitable ancestral matriarchal traditions.
Thank all of you once again for coming this morning.