SLWAFC is a self-help movement, which encourages all grassroots women to take inspiration from our traditional women's secret societies in the promotion of rural and community development, the advancement of girls education and literacy among adult women as well as the protection of sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls throughout the country.
Bondo is an ancient all female institution that predates the Abrahamic religions, European colonization, the Trans Atlantic Slave trade and modern, western patriarchy. Bondo is based on the practice of circumcision, or cutting the flesh (I know, ouch!), which is the symbolic act of creation, or the separation of the sexes into male and female. Bondo coexists with Poro, the male secret society, and together these two institutions represent the complementarity and interdependence of gendered human beings as the foundation of marriage, the family and social organization.
Much of the world does not practice either male or female circumcision. The Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Islam predominantly uphold male child-only circumcision, a practice that is common among most secular American men as well (however, there are a few Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities that practice both male and female circumcision). In western countries, identical forms of female circumcision that are practiced in Bondo are becoming increasingly popularized as female genital cosmetic surgeries among educated, well-to-do, mostly white women and adolescent girls. As inheritors of matriarchal Bondo, we assert our rights to our ancestral aesthetic traditions as well as our own beliefs in the complementarity of female and male circumcision (for more information on the links between circumcision, gender identity, marriage, family and social life keep an eye on our page at www.awafc.org).
In Sierra Leone, SLWAFC will support our western inherited modern institutions in the advancement of women and girls but will also act as a check against any attempts (whether from outside or within) to import and impose aspects of western feminism, secular or religious patriarchal ideologies and any other gender or gender-free ideologies or practices that are inimical to the existence of Bondo society, our female ancestral traditions and dual-sex sociopolitical structures.
Although Bondo remains a secret society and certain knowledge will always be retained within the exclusive domain and possession of female elders and Sowies, SLWAFC will work together with our Sowies, the Government and other Civil Society organizations to develop written literature and other learning materials on the history, ethnography and sociocultural significance of female and male circumcision, initiation and our traditional societies in Sierra Leone. We take pride in who we are, in our mothers, our grandmothers and our traditions! #imitatednotmutilated
By Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, PhD
Executive Director, SLWAFC and AWAFC
Editor in Chief, SiA Magazine