By Thomas Domah, Nimba County
Over 500 traditional priests or zoes in all 19 Administrative Districts of Nimba County have gathered in Gbanquoi, Tappita district and handed over tools used for rituals to the Chief Zoe of the Republic of Liberia.
The closure of Bush schools in the traditional groves in Nimba County in support of the elimination of FGM practices in Liberia is being implemented by the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia (NACCEL), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with technical support from the Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP) and funded by UN Women Liberia and the Government of Sweden.
The turnover ceremony took place on Friday, October 27, witnessed by chiefs and elders from the 15 counties of Liberia.
The chairman for the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia (NACCEL) Chief Zanzan Karwor said a ban has been imposed on FGM practices in Nimba by the weekend’s ceremony in the county.
Chief Karwo told female zoes present that they are only removing the FGM practices that have been the major practices in the women’s culture but traditional women will be allowed to practice other aspects of the culture in the country.
“We are removing the FGM practices which is the harmful traditional practices been carried out in the Sende society, but your will be allowed to practice other culture, not FGM, this is the harmful practices that we are removing today; no one should practice it in Nimba County; from here we will be calling on the UN Women and the Sweden government to support us to do such in Grand Bassa County and in rest of the counties that are still involved in such practices”, Chief Karwo added.
He urged traditional leaders of Nimba County, particularly, zoes to go to the Heritage Center and acquire skills training that will enable them to be more productive in society.
He clarified that women are not being stopped from practicing their culture but harmful traditional practices are the ones being scratched.
However, the over 500 hundred female zoes who handed over their traditional tools appeared unhappy, as they were not ready to relinquish said practices but did so out of compulsion.
“To just leave a long time practice is not easy but thanks so much for doing that, from today upward no FGM practices will take place in Nimba County. We will move to Grand Bassa County and the rest of the 15 counties to stop FGM practices”, Chief Karwor said.
Some young girls who had gathered to witness the occasion threatened to leave the country and cross over to neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast to attend bush school, where these practices are also conducted.
At the ceremony, traditional queen and executive director for the Crusaders for Peace and Co-chair on the FGM task force, Juli Endee thanked the female zoes for relinquishing their tools and abandoning the rituals.
She explained that they were not forced or coerced to do so, but they made the decision to protect the future of young girls and women.
“Don’t be fooled, this is the right decision you took today to help protect the future of young girls and women; the structure should be used to empower rural women from across the county to be involved in skill training and agricultural activities that will help to impact their lives”, she added.
UN Women Liberia Country Representative, Comfort Lamptey, extended thanks to the Nimba female traditional zoes for embracing change in their lives.
She explained that in February 2023 Chief Zanzan Karwor banned the practice of FGM across Liberia and thanked female zoes in Nimba County for welcoming such decision and turning over their tools.
She pledged the United Nations support towards the structure being constructed in Gbanquoi to empower female zoes.
The UN Women Liberia Country Representative noted that the Center will be used to empower women in the county.
Sweden Embassy representative at the ceremony Dwede Tarpeh, pledged the Embassy’s support toward development activities in Liberia.
She explained that the decision taken by female zoes of Nimba will help to protect the future of young girls, while the United Nations Development Program ( UNDP) national program officer Ernree B.Neeplo, and ActionAid Liberia Country Director, Elizabeth Johnson, pledged their respective organizations’ support toward women empowerment. Editing by Jonathan Browne