Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), Sierra Leone – Fight against Female Genital Mutilation

'Educating people means strengthening them. Only by changing the way of thinking, we can change peoples actions'. Rugiatu Turay (middle), founder and leader of AIM, with girls from the safe house. Photo: © AIM'Educating people means strengthening them. Only by changing the way of thinking, we can change peoples' actions.' 'Rugiatu Turay (middle), founder and leader of AIM, with girls from the safe house. Photo: © AIM

Project area: Lunsar (80km north east of Freetown) and the surrounding district Port Loko, Sierra Leone

Supported by TDF since: 2009

Target group: Girls and young women threatened by female genital mutilation (FGM)

Background:

  • According to the State of the African Women Report, in 2018, about 90% of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 years had suffered FGM in Sierra Leone. Shockingly, the report further revealed that 80% of girls aged 10 to 14 years had already suffered FGM.
  • It is estimated that up to 50.000 circumcisers are active in the country, most of them being organized in so called women’s secret societies. FGM is one of the initiation rituals for girls in the transition from teenage years to womanhood.
  • In public discourse, FGM and its life-threatening consequences are still mostly tabooed. Politicians fear the influence of the secret societies and therefore often support the practice of FGM.
  • The Maputo Protocol (Protocol for the Rights of Women in Africa) was ratified by Sierra Leone as late as 2015 under the reservation of allowing FGM from an age of 18 years instead of implementing a total ban.

Project activities:

AIM is an independent non-governmental organization whose key areas of activity are the prevention and elimination of FGM in Sierra Leone. Furthermore, AIM engages in the fight against forced marriage and sexualized violence. The organization first started its work in 2003, breaking a taboo by making FGM a subject of public discourse. In the prevention work of FGM, the 35 staff members and many more volunteer supporters of AIM pursue an integral concept that involves all relevant stakeholders in the sensitization and information campaigns: circumcisers, children and young adults, parents and teachers, health workers, as well as political, traditional and religious leaders.

AIM pursues the following objectives:

  • Protection from FGM: A safe house for girls fleeing from their families due to the threats of FGM, forced marriage, sexualized violence or child work. The safe house offers a safe space for up to 25 girls and young women between 8 and 20 years. Due to a call for donations via betterplace.org, we were able to generate enough funds to renovate the house and buy additional beds in 2018. In the house, there is a social worker who supports the girls to freely unfold their full potential. All girls continue their schooling or vocational education while in the safe house. Additionally, the girls started to grow crops on the land around the house. Sometimes they even harvest enough to sell some of their products on the market.
  • Creating alternative livelihoods for circumcisers: AIM avoids to denounce or stigmatize circumcisers. Instead, they inform and raise awareness about the dangers and life-threatening consequences of FGM. Further, AIM offers literacy and farming courses as livelihood alternatives for (former) circumcisers. During the Ebola epidemic, (former) circumcisers were trained as multipliers and played an important role in contributing to the educational work about the disease.
  • Human rights education: AIM trains young adults as peer ambassadors who then sensitize their friends and communities on human rights and human rights violations. Their commitment is recompensed by a one-year scholarship covering school or vocational institutes’ fees or promoting the foundation of an own small-scale business.
    Furthermore, AIM developed a human rights workshop that educates students about their rights. Meanwhile, this interactive workshop is taught at 15 schools in Port Loko district.

Impact:

  • In the safe house, AIM provides 20-25 girls with a safe living space. All residents have so far been saved from FGM. Many girls could return home safely after AIM had held mediation talks with their parents.
  • Through awareness raising activities, AIM has convinced about 60 circumcisers to renounce the harmful practice of FGM. About half of them now work as anti-FGM activists and accompany AIM’s sensitization campaigns.

Project manager: James Kunduno

Contacts: Voluntary project coordinator Veronika Kirschner (sierra-leone@frauenrechte.de)
or TERRE DES FEMMES – department for International Cooperation (iz@frauenrechte.de)

AIM needs your support for:

  • running costs, maintenance and expansion of the safe house.
  • psychological and legal support and school- or vocational training fees for the girls in the safe house.
  • the remuneration of the safe house staff (matron, cook and watchman).
  • mediation sessions with parents.
  • workshops and campaigns against FGM and other harmful traditional practices.

Support AIM with a one-time donation or contribute regularly and become a sponsor!

You can also donate to the following account, using the keyword “Sierra Leone” as a reference for your payment:

TERRE DES FEMMES e.V.
EthikBank
IBAN DE35 8309 4495 0103 1160 00
BIC GENODEF1ETK

 

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