Former Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Rugiatu Neneh Turay-Koroma, who is now the CEO of a non-profit organisation known as Amazonian, has launched a first-of-its-kind program titled “The ‘Sowei’ Public Declaration for an alternative rites of passage” in Port Loko City, Northern Sierra Leone.
The programme is designed to encourage traditional female initiators to hand over the Sharp instruments they have used over the years to practice Female Genital Cutting, and also eplace their traditional head gear, which was a Red Head-Tie, to a Blue and Yellow Head-tie”.
The programme was supported by a German philanthropic organisation called Pfeerminzgieen.
The ceremony was carried out in the presence of the current Paramount Chief, PC Alikali Mella of Port Loko city, as it is required by ancient tradition that the initiated should bring firewood to the Paramount Chief as part of the elaborate event.
Madam Rugiatu Turay-Koroma is among few African women who have refused to shed off their ‘Africaness’ in exchange for Western culture, and remained committed to their rich African traditions.
“There are certain aspects which I consider as harmful and dangerous to women’s health, such as the cutting of the genetalia and that should be discarded.” she said.
Speaking at the ceremony, Madam Turay-Koroma said that African legislators have never succeeded in enacting strong legislation to stop the act because governments can neither offer employment to the initiators or ‘Soweis’ as they are locally known, nor effectively supervise the ceremonies to prevent harm to initiates.
“The success of this programme is as result of methodicall planning with women from all walks of life. This has never happened among the women of Port Loko, and it’s impact is sure to last in the participants memory for a life time” she affirmed.
Ruggie Turay-Koroma said her organization, friends and German partner, Pfefferminzgieen’s benevolence has touched the lives of many, who otherwise could not afford the generational rite-of-passage for their children, especially in these trying times.
“It was an inspiring and intriguing moment for the current generation as most Port Loko women were determined to hold on to their ancestral cultural tradition” she opined.
“The city of Port Loko is setting the pace for other cities in the Republic of Sierra Leone to follow. It was also overwhelmingly accepted that pregnant women also undergo the traditional ritual” she proudly concluded.
The epoch making event was witnessed by a lot of prominent personalities, including Dr. Aisha Fofana, Hon. Sirajin, Lawyer Jasmin Jusu-Sheriff, Brima Sheriff, Aminata Koroma, Anita Koroma, Nikki, Aisha Josia-Kamara, John Tholley, and Theresa Pobe.