Sierra Leone Women Are Free to Choose and
The National Sowie Councils
Press Release 6 February, 2024
RE: Response to The Guardian Article “3 Girls Die After FGM Rituals in Sierra Leone” 3 February, 2024
As a rule, the National Sowie Council does not respond to alleged police investigations involving supposed deaths linked to Bondo in Sierra Leone. Notwithstanding, given an unfortunate pattern of misinformation, kidnapping hoaxes, and fabrications of post mortems orchestrated by certain anti-FGM campaigners, we would like to use this opportunity to inform Sierra Leoneans, our policymakers, the Bio administration, and the international community of the following:
Since 2016, the Guardian UK has colluded with high profile anti-FGM campaigners in Sierra Leone, such as Nenneh Turay of Amazonian Initiative and Hon. Chernor Bah, the current Minister of Information, to fabricate stories of FGM kidnappings and Bondo deaths. (Note: Hon. Chernor Bah, as the former head of We Are Purposeful, filed a frivolous FGM human rights abuse case against the Government of Sierra Leone at ECOWAS in April 2023 - see press release August 18, 2023). In addition to instigating the harassment, defamation and false imprisonment of sowies in the past, the Guardian UK and their local anti-FGM campaigners exploit the annual occasion of the UN’s Zero-Tolerance Day for FGM on February 6 to invent new claims of so-called FGM deaths in Sierra Leone.
We contend that these previous outrageous allegations, and colonialist representations of our matriarchal sodalities, are deliberately designed to elicit global outrage and importantly, funding. More significantly, we view these most recent allegations as part of the Guardian UK’s attempt to reignite its failed anti-FGM campaign in Sierra Leone in anticipation of millions of dollars of external funding earmarked for Sierra Leone to implement a national anti-FGM policy and criminal legislation.
Despite this attempt to demoralize and divide sowies and traditional women leaders in Sierra Leone, we are united in our opposition to any national policy or legislation that circumvents the democratic process of the Republic of Sierra Leone as well as the human rights of Bondo women to gender equality, self-determination and bodily autonomy.
In the upcoming weeks, we welcome a thorough police investigation of the alleged deaths in the Northwest and, if any charges are warranted, we expect a robust prosecution (and we will ensure an equally vigorous defense representation) for anyone or persons charged with criminal offences. Our organizations are categorically opposed to forceful initiations of anyone – males and females – in Sierra Leone.
In the meantime, in honor of our organizations’ Female Circumcision Awareness Week (February 6 – 13, 2024 ), we will publish our own national policy proposal for the preservation and modernization of our traditional Bondo and Sande sodalities (including formal clinical and literacy training for practitioners). We will also publish our position statements on the proposed Child Rights Act, the status of the ECOWAS case, the “radical inclusion” of sowies in national politics as well as other matters of concern to the preservation of our globally renown, female owned, masked societies.
In a world where the aesthetics of Bondo excision have become popular and normalized in western female genital cosmetic surgeries, where gendered genital alterations are now a given in sex reassignment, intersex and gender “affirmation’ surgeries – even for non-consenting, underage children – it is high time for the UN, EU, WHO, African Union and western controlled global media to rethink the singling out, vilifying and infantilizing of African women as well as the open cultural appropriation of our bodily practices. For a list of references on the need for global approaches to ALL forms of genial alterations - irrespective of sex, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, nationality, and socioeconomic class - please refer to the links on our website www.awafc.org.
For further information on this press release, Female Circumcision or Bondo/Sande in Sierra Leone and West Africa, please contact:
Fuambai Sia Nyoko Ahmadu, PhD
I am an anthropologist, an advocate and activist. I am passionate about African sex and gender systems/ideologies. My research has focused on the symbolic meanings of female (and male) initiation and circumcision rites in West Africa and beyond as well as related issues of human rights, bodily autonomy, female sexuality and postcolonial feminism.