One of the leading organisations advocating for girls’ right in the country, Commit and Act Foundation over the weekend organised their 2nd annual girls’ conference in Makeni City, Northern part of Sierra Leone.

Over 900 girls from three districts – Bombali, Bo, and Tonkolili were in attendance at the Auditorium of the University of Makeni, where the conference was hosted. Theme for this year’s conference was: “Stop Underage & Forced Female Circumcision and Support the Girl Child Education“.

The founder and director of Commit and Act Foundation, Hannah Bockarie said that the second annual conference is organized for over 900 girls who are beneficiaries of their “My body, my right, my decision” project.

She said Commit and Act cater for abused girls and provide safe homes in Bo and Bombali districts.

Bockarie said that they have another project where they cater for children that have not yet been initiated to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), adding that they have been working with the children for three years.

The Director said that they also empower the parents of the children for them to go into business and also ensure that they continue to support and promote girl child education, which she said is the main objective of their project.

She added that they are also helping parents who are in conflicts to work in unity, through a project called, “Dare to connect”.

Bockarie disclosed that the donors for their project are the German Doctors, adding that the project has sustainability approach. He disclosed that they give each parents Le750,000 every three months for them to embark in small scale businesses to support their children’s education.

She furthered that they are very much active in the area of promoting ‘soweis’ for them to have an alternative livelihood, like agriculture, instead of only doing Female Genital Mutilation.

That’s why even today, you see in the hall, we have bunch of soweis that come all the way to be part of this year’s conference,” she said.

Bockarie said that at Commit and Act they are not against Bondo, but only condemn the harmful part, which is the FGM. She added that they don’t want Bondo with blood, and it is Bondo without blood they are promoting.

The Director noted that the Bondo society has so much value in the lives of the girls and the local women, as it is a place where they come together and solve their problems. She also noted that ‘soweis’ are cooperating with them because it is a win-win situation for all.

After the conference, we will continue to engage the children, the teachers that are part of our network, and the soweis,” she said.

Serving as a motivational speaker for the conference, former Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Dr. Sylvia Blyden spoke on the topic, “Impact of Social Media (negative and positive) on the Girl Child”.

She explained the positive role of the Bondo Society in the local communities in aspect of building up the self-esteem of girls, but called for all to respect girl’s right to say no to female circumcision.

She commended Commit and Act Foundation for taking admirable efforts in getting the ‘soweis’ to perform Bondo Society initiations, but without any female circumcision of the girls to be initiated.

The Head of Soweis in Dansogoyai Chiefdom, Tonkolili district, Baromie ‘Orbonsor’ Conteh expressed thanks and appreciation to the Director of Commit and Act, Hannah Bockarie for the position she has elevated them to.

She has shown us the importance of girl child education. Before you educate 10 boys, educate one girl. You will see the benefits,” she said.

The head of ‘soweis’ called on her colleagues to focus on agriculture, business, and other means of livelihood that can help them push their children’s education.

She said that they are not going to stop the Bondo society, but they are going to leave the FGM behind. She appealed to her colleagues to follow this method as it will be beneficial to them in the future.

Orbonsor noted that the Bondo is important for the social training of the girls, and they will continue with it, without performing FGM.