THE GESSL CHRONICLES
FGM in Sierra Leone, and the death of Fatmata Turay
August 22, 2016
Oh Sierra Leone. The land of everything. I wonder what Sierra Leone has become at the hands of the Secret Bondo Society.
What I am about to write is coming from my heart as a concerned and caring Sierra Leonean girl. When I heard that 19-year-old Fatmata died during her initiation into the Bondo, I felt so bad and sympathetic, but I did not stop there…I started thinking over and over again. If this is happening to our girls in Sierra Leone, what will the future have in store for us? Fatmata’s death was explained in different ways by people of her community. Some said it was because she was not ordinary - she was either a witch or something equally extraordinary…but I want to make it clear to Sierra Leone and the world as a whole, that a lack of knowledge can lead to false judgements and explanations on the loss of Fatmata’s life.
I also want Sierra Leoneans to know that when we are created by God, we are created beautifully from his own image and likeness. God did not create us to join Bondo and destroy the beauty of his creation.
As Sierra Leoneans, we have to face to the fact that we cannot bring back the life of this innocent girl nor bring back her dreams and determinations to life.
Some of you say that men only value girls who have gone through Bondo or that when we are initiated we become perfect marital partners and learn how to take care of our matrimonial homes, we learn how to respect elders and generally become positive citizens, but I want to tell you that this is a lie. Not only do we learn these things when we enter a secret society…that’s why we have parents and guardians who guide us and discipline us.
I am a Sierra Leonean girl. I am asking on behalf of other girls that we put a stop to these secret society initiations before they destroy and damage the future of young girls in Sierra Leone.
To the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, heads of Sowei Council and other important organisations please let us come together and say NO to Bondo Secret Society in Sierra Leone.
And May the soul of our Sierra Leonean sister, friend and daughter Fatmata Turay rest in perfect peace.
A Concerned GESSL'er
August 5, 2016
We are excited about the GESSL journey, and as we head into our fifth year of operations, we want to share the growth and the change that is happening with our girls with our community. Heartworker Dairies originated from the idea that GESSL work is done from passion, driven by needs of girls in Sierra Leone. With the vision of empowering girls to become leaders and change agents, we celebrate our girls as they make strides to bring change in their communities. Heartworker Dairies is a space of us to share stories of our girls who are doing extraordinary things in the program due to their involvement in GESSL. We at GESSL are heartworkers, because the work is at the core of our heart. This quarter we focus on Josephine Thullah who has been in our program since 2012.
I met Josephine in 2012 during our first GESSL, when GESSL was in its pilot phase. Josephine was outspoken, brilliant and curious about growing as a woman leader. Her growth throughout the years has been one we truly admire in GESSL. Over the years, she has grown and has continuously challenged herself to take up leadership roles within GESSL and in her school community. She led efforts in recruiting new GESSL'ers in the recent years and served as spokesperson for GESSL at assemblies, she also serves as a positive role model to the younger GESSL'ers who enter into the program.
Recently, Josephine notified our team that she and group of other youth leaders started hosting community gatherings in slums in Sierra Leone with young people to discuss issues pertinent to them including community change, education, leadership etc. The mandate for GESSL is the develop girls into leaders to become change agents in their community by the time they leave our program. To see Josephine taking up this mantle whilst she is still in the program is such a heart-space joy. Keep pushing, Josephine. We are in your corner always, as you fulfill your own heartwork.
We hope this story encourages you and shows you a bit of insight of the work that GESSL does and how GESSL is transforming lives and communities everyday.
Moiyattu Banya, Executive Director and Heartworker, GESSL.
July 3, 2015
Today, ribbons were flying all around St. Joseph's Convent Secondary School in the spirit of friendship, community action and female leadership! We are so proud of our GESSL girls as they and their peers reached not only their target today but exceeded it. Their peers, teachers, and the whole school came and supported them and asked them not to stop their great work. Great job ladies!
JANET'S JOURNAL ON EBOLA
October 31, 2014
The Ebola deadly virus started in Zaire, in a community around the Ebola River after which the virus was named. It has historically called thousands of people and today it is still destroying lives in Sierra Leone, “the beautiful diamond of Africa”.
It has, not only, destroyed lives but our education, economy, leadership and the country itself. Our educational values have decreased as we no longer go to school because we don't want to contract it, and we lack food as most of the Ebola affected patients are farmers from our various districts and because these farms are left unattended and the crops die. Also, migration has been stopped and the little crops, which are harvested, are not transported over to us. We also don't send our own goods over so we lack food. The commodity prices have increased because ships don't come into our country any more. We are suffering from hunger. If it weren’t for the help we are receiving from other countries, we would not have had any money in our country. A lot of money has been spent just so Ebola could be driven away but to no avail. As of now we have nothing to boast of because even our foreign investors have left us. This is what Ebola has done to a once beautiful country.
I just want to tell you that all of Ebola’s effects on this country are bad; the only good being that it has brought us nearer to God.
The highlight of this week’s news: Nigeria has been declared Ebola free. Hastings Ebola Treatments Centre has discharged 40 Ebola survivors. Deputy Minister of Welfare donated food items to quarantined homes at Brookfields. Ms. Hannah Foullah has formed a group called beauty for country to help stop stigmatization.
*About Janet: Janet Ganu is 18 years old and lives in Sierra Leone. She is an alumna of Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone and a recent graduate of Annie Walsh Memorial School. She plans to attend the University and study law. This journal is part of a series of journals that girls who are part of GESSL were asked to write about their experiences during the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone to give them a space to outlet how they were feeling and to also help nurture their writing skills while out of school.