Kailahun Soweis unite to end child early and forced marriage

Friday 4 November 2022

Soweis singing and dancing before a three-day discussion in Kailahun. October 2022. Photo Credit; Abdul Sillah

20 Influential Bondo society women in Kailahun district have had a three-day meeting to map out ways they could end child early and forced marriage in the district.  They met on October 17 –19 at the Kailahun youth centre with support from Save the Children.

World Health Organization (WHO) say, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which has been part of Bondo society, is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15 because it is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.

These women are from 15 chiefdoms in Kailahun. They do not deny the WHO claims, but say the essence of this meeting was to make bylaws that will discourage forceful initiation especially on children.

The three-day meeting included sessions with staff from the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs and health workers who taught them about the legal implications of child forceful initiation and health complications of FGM on girls and women.

One key resolution after the meeting was to get verification from the Mami Queen of every chiefdom for any initiation.  She will only give approval for a woman above the age of 18.  They also agreed to set up a monitoring committee of Soweis that will monitor Bondo Bushes during initiation period and punish any Sowei who initiates a child.

The Soweis promised to pass on this message to other Soweis and community stakeholder’s in their respective chiefdoms and communities, to bring them up to speed with laws surrounding CEFM and FGM.

“With the blessing of our paramount and section chiefs, these resolutions will become bylaws that will guide all of us. That time, if anyone breaks the law, they will face the full force of the law,” said Kadiatu Lamin, Sowei from Mandu Chiefdom

This is the first time that Soweis have been brought together in Kailahun to discuss and champion ending child early and forced marriage. They want to have more engagements like this and want to present their resolutions to district stakeholders. The Global Affairs Canada funded Child Early and Forced Marriage project – a three-year approach to end child early and forced marriage - will continue to support their initiative in the coming months.