On August 15th, 2023, Save the Children celebrated the successful conclusion of its three-year-long Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) Project with a district closeout meeting in Western Area Rural Waterloo.

The event aimed to address the critical issue of child early and forced marriage and empower adolescents to make informed decisions about their bodies and futures.

The gathering attracted participants from various sectors, including civil society organizations, government ministries, and dignitaries.

The CEFM Project, which covered 15 rural communities including Songo, Number 2, Waterloo, Deep-Eye Water, and Kent, aimed to reduce instances of early marriage and promote gender equality. Central to this initiative was the mantra “My body, My decision, My right.”

Madam Deans Evans, Head of Operations at Save the Children, lauded the event as a gathering of future leaders for Sierra Leone. Reflecting on Save the Children’s substantial presence in Sierra Leone since 1999, Madam Evans emphasized the importance of collective efforts in reducing early marriage.

She underscored the need for parental and community involvement, government policies, and human rights services to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for children.

Highlighting the project’s impact, Madam Claudia Campbell, affectionately known as “pikin Dem Mama,” highlighted achievements such as providing loans to 72 groups, enhancing their trading operations.

Acknowledging the challenges in health and protection within communities, she praised the project’s support and affirmed the ongoing commitment to these communities.

Mr. Kelfela Kargbo, Head of Street Child Sierra Leone, celebrated the collaboration with GAC-CEFM and Save the Children’s profound impact on street child programs.

Encouraging immediate reporting of children’s issues to the Family Support Unit, Mr. Kargbo emphasized the importance of safeguarding children’s rights.

Participants, such as Daniella S. Kargbo and Mr. Benson Williams, shared personal stories of transformation.

Daniella hailed the creation of a safe space for adolescents, enabling positive decisions and personal growth, while Mr. Williams credited the project with enhancing his capacity to promote gender equality and combat domestic violence.

Regina, a community member from Grafton, credited Save the Children with transforming her life and her community’s narrative. With newfound knowledge about sexual harassment and the ability to report such incidents, she has become an agent of change.

Mr. Swarray from Coal Town proudly embraced his role as an ambassador of change, highlighting his community’s exceptional adherence to the Save the Children CFM Project. He joyfully described his involvement in household chores, especially cooking, as a source of admiration from his family.

Inspired by the project, Mr. Alie Kamara from Number Two2 community founded the “Hope For Children Foundation” with the motto “Advocate for Pikin Dem,” aligning with Save the Children’s principles.

The Closeout Meeting concluded with a flourish as the project extended its support through donations of motorbikes and office equipment to Implementing Partners, including Street Child and the Family Support Unit.

This event marked a significant step towards fostering a brighter future for Sierra Leone’s children, free from the shackles of early and forced marriages.