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Sande members protest in Weala against bush school closure

By: Ramsey N. Singbeh, Jr., Margibi County 

Officials and members of the Sande society (female bush school) in Weala, District# 5, Margibi County are vehemently opposed to the three years suspension of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) a core value of the Sande by the National Traditional Council of Liberia, thus erecting roadblock and preventing normal traffic flow.

Although the government here, through the Ministries of Gender and Internal Affairs had formally announced the suspension of activities of the bush schools, particularly FGM in the Sande, the protesters claim they are not aware, so they do not support the decision of the Council.

In February this year at a two-day national conference held in Gbarnga, Bong County with traditional leaders of Liberia, chiefs and elders, including the head of the National Traditional Council headed by Chief Zanzan Kawah affixed their signatures to a policy document, temporarily suspending all Sande Society practices and other traditional activities in the country for three years.

VP Jewel Howard-Taylor

The conference was held by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia.

The protesters attired in green costumes with white head ties in Weala blocked the main route leading from Monrovia to Gbarnga on Monday, March 21, 2022, for several hours, stalling movement of vehicles and blocking the flow of traffic.

They are from the Sande bush school named Zinnah Hill in Weala which is headed by Mother Wotoe Musa, a well-known female traditional leader in the district.

However, after a long period of protest, some traditional leaders (not identified) intervened and calmed the situation, taking the protesters, all females, away from the streets back to the Sande bush for discussion. 

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Speaking to reporters during the protest, Mother Wotoe Musa complained that they are not in the know of the decision of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia.

She contends that they were not accorded any courtesy or respect and had no prior knowledge before the decision to shut down bush schools was taken, which affects all of them. 

Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, a strong campaigner of women’s rights and empowerment had earlier excepted to the three years suspension on female genital mutilation (FGM) here, which is practiced in the Sande or female bush school. Instead, she called for the construction of traditional schools to teach young girls and boys about traditional values.

VP Taylor argued that if Liberia must continue to exist and if Liberians want their traditions to be transferred from one generation to another, a key strategy is to operate traditional schools across the country.

Speaking in Monrovia at official launch of an Anti-SGBV national call center and announcement of three years moratorium on female genital mutilation (FGM) that was characterized by the handing over of 15 motorbikes and four (4) vehicles to the Anti-SGBV task force in February, Vice President Taylor stressed that if this strategy is implemented, it will leave a serious mark on all of the hope and aspirations that the FGM roadmap document carries.

She noted that FGM plays a major part in traditional practices in Liberia, so it has created a different kind of focus on the way Liberians see their traditions.

VP Taylor continued that as a traditional woman herself, she hopes that in the future, Female Genital Mutilation will be rooted out from the traditions so that her daughter or granddaughter would have an opportunity to attend traditional school and learn about the traditions of the Kpelleh tribe in Bong County and the traditions of the people of Lofa. Mrs. Taylor’s parents hailed from both counties.

“Because of FGM being a part of our tradition, my mother didn’t go to the Sande and Poro societies, she didn’t send me either and I am surely not going to send my children.” She added.

However, the Vice President said, if the necessary changes were made, she would want her children to go to these schools to learn the concept of what it is to be a fully empowered traditional daughter.

“We must create traditional schools that we can put our traditional women who are knowledgeable about these things to teach our Liberian daughters what they should be learning”, VP Taylor maintained.

Critics say it came as no surprise that members of the Sande are putting up a fight against the suspension, given Vice President Taylor’s stance on the bush school.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/vp-taylor-excepts-to-fgm-suspension/ Editing by Jonathan Browne

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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