Plan International USA Works with Women to End FGM in Sierra Leone

At the age of 16, Christiana was forced to marry a man older than her father and to take part in a secret Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) ceremony to “initiate her” into womanhood.

“All the women in our family have been initiated,” she said. “They were preparing me for marriage. The man who wanted to marry me told my family to initiate me into the secret society. I was not pleased about that because my granny, who raised me, was not around. When we went there I was so afraid. I almost fainted in the process. It was really painful – that was why I was so afraid.”

Christiana was abandoned by her parents during the war and then passed between relatives who failed to offer her support or stability at home. As an abandoned child, she dropped out of school and began selling food on the street in order to survive.

She then attracted the attention of a much older man who offered her a way off the street by proposing marriage. She didn’t want to marry him, but her relatives pressured her until she agreed. He was violent toward her and eventually beat her so badly a cousin came and rescued her.

Christiana is now a member of Plan’s Girls Power Group in her village in Moyamba District in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone and was recently voted its president.

Plan believes FGM is a form of violence against women and girls and an abuse of human rights. FGM directly relates to traditions of unequal power between women and men, and is socially acceptable in communities where it is used to enforce discrimination and ensure the compliance of women and girls.

Plan aims to change that by supporting community leaders and governments in creating societies where inequality is eradicated and the human rights of women and girls are respected and celebrated.

By working directly with the people who matter and who can make a difference, Plan is raising awareness and supporting change from within: from those in the community, such as young people, community leaders, FGM practitioners and the media, to heads of governments.

Plan works to ensure they enforce international human rights agreements and support them to develop/enforce their own laws against FGM. It also works with NGOs, children’s groups, and women’s human rights organizations to build networks for social change, to raise awareness and funding to end FGM.