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FGM Banned In Montserrado -10 More To Declare Liberia Free

By Grace Q. Bryant

The Government of Liberia in collaboration with Montserrado County Traditional Leaders has finally reached a decision to ban Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Montserrado County.
The declaration was made at a program held in observance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6, witnessed by the European Union and the UN Spotlight Initiative in Songkay Town, Todee District.
The event brought together zoes, traditional leaders, representatives of UN Women, World Bank, African Development Bank, the Government of Liberia and other groups under the theme: Partnership with men and boys to transform social and gender norms to end FGM.”
The Chairperson of the National Council of Chief and Elders in Liberia (NACCEL), Zanzan Karwor, announced that they have collaborated with every traditional leader to abolish the FGM in the remaining 10 counties if the respect due them as traditional leaders is accorded.
He also warned violators that there are still cultural traditional punishments because they still operate the “Kpowah Sande Society” that is involved with initiation without mutilation in order to pass on their cultural education to their heirs.
“No one has the authority to bring the FGM back, not even those who will come to you, telling you to vote for them so they can bring back the FGM,” he maintained.
Chief Karwor noted that they are doing so because they do not want Liberia to be left behind in terms of development and other opportunities meant for the country.
Reading a statement of progress, the traditional queen, Juli Endee reiterated that they have agreed to close and ban the FGM activities nationwide; assuring that, they will gradually continue in other counties if the necessary measures are put in place.
“We have 11 counties that are practicing the FGM and for Montserrado, we have done our traditional rituals for 19 days and nights to speak with our ancestors which allowed us to reach such decision,” Endee told the audience.
Queen Juli noted that Sande School is one of the oldest traditional institutions across the World but the lack of education has made many people to explain things contrarily.
“We have three kinds of Sande Societies; the Mua Sande is practiced by the Muslims, the Zoebar Sande is practiced by the masks and the Kpowah Sande has no FGM,” she noted.
According to her, they are banning the Mua and Zoebar but will continue the practice of Kpowah to teach their children their culture as it is meant to educate patriotism, skills and royalty among others so that they cannot lose the culture.
The Alternative Eco Livelihood Program was also launched during the ceremony aimed at transforming the traditional activities into training traditional female leaders into tie dying, village saving, tailoring as well as in other skills for livelihoods.
The Female Zoe leader, Massa Kandakai, acknowledged the ban of the harmful traditional practices and the closure of Sande bushes in the county, but requested that the UN, government and their partners give them what was requested.
“I Massa kandakai say it must be closed and it is closed for good; I finish agree yaa, but what your get for us, your do it for us,” the Chief Female Zoe for Montserrado asserted in her colloquial expression.
Reading the proclamation on behalf of UN one house, the UN Women Country Representative, Comfort Lamptey, said that the FGM is one of the most vicious manifestations of the patriarchy that permeates the world and also serves as an abhorrent violation of fundamental human rights that causes lifelong damage to the physical and mental health of women and girls.
According to her, the act is rooted in the same gender inequalities and complex social norms that limit women’s participation and leadership and restrict their access to education and employment across the globe.
“On the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, let’s commit to social change and strong partnerships to put an end to female genital mutilation once and for all,” the UN Women Country Representative urged.
She however called on everyone to collaborate in challenging and ending the scourge, as their theme for this year calls on men and boys everywhere to join them in speaking out and stepping forward to end the female genital mutilation for the benefit of all.
Additionally, the Equality Now regional coordinator for Africa, Judy Gitau expressed gratitude that Liberia has made progress to fight against FGM.
According to her, civil society organizations have continuously raised concerns about the harmful effects of female genital mutilation, adding FGM causes girls and women life-long physical and psychological trauma, including depression.
She continued that FGM is a human rights violation and is deeply entrenched in Liberian culture and many other parts of Africa, but the move by traditional leaders and the government to banned FGM is laudable.
“Equality Now” is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1992 to advocate for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls.
For the VP, Madam Taylor, “I thanked the Chief Traditional Leaders, Ambassador’s and all the UN sectors people for helping us reach this far.”
She also appealed to the UN sector to have a friendly environment including activities to complete the work.
“Right now people will be looking to see what you have done, because it was not an easy thing to see us today to have taken more than 10 years with all the sacrifices and trust being given to our women and traditional leaders, so that when they speak, everyone follows,” she concluded.

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