Catholic Priest’s Initiative Saving Sierra Leonean Girls from “harmful practice of FGM”

Fr. Peter Konteh (seated), poses for a photo session with beneficiaries of Desert Flower Foundation- Sierra Leone on the celebrations of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Genital Mutilation. Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

Desert Flower Foundation-Sierra Leone (DFF-SL), a charitable organization started by a Catholic Priest in Sierra Leone, is keeping hundreds of girls from vulnerable families from joining an underground society that promotes Female Genital Mutilation in the West African country.

In a celebration to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Fr. Peter Konteh announced that the foundation that was established in 2014 has saved about 1,500 girls from joining Bondo Secret Society, which also champions other traditional practices in Sierra Leone.

“As we celebrate world FGM Day today the 7th of February 2022, Desert Flower Foundation SL through its sponsorship drive has saved about 1,500 Girls across Sierra Leone from the harmful practice of FGM… What an accomplishment,” Fr. Konteh says in a message he shared with ACI Africa on Tuesday, February 8.

He added, “We are grateful for touching the lives of our beneficiaries and changing the narrative of the culture of FGM. Thank you to our Donors and God bless every hand that is pushing the fight to stop FGM.”

“Let every human community continue to accelerate investment to end FGM and uphold the human right of all women and girls,” the award-winning Priest who serves as the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown and acting Director Caritas Sierra Leone says.


This year, the Foundation celebrated the day in Magburaka, a district located in Northern Sierra Leone where 105 girls are beneficiaries.

“Magburaka is one of the communities prone to FGM and statistics has proven that there is huge evidence of FGM occurrence in the district. Hence, the reason for hosting this year’s celebration in the district,” Fr. Konteh says, and adds, “Because this year’s date is on a weekend, the foundation decided to celebrate the day on Monday 7th February 2022.”

The theme of the celebration, which was held a day after the January 6 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM was “Accelerating Investment to End FGM”. 

In his message, Fr. Konteh notes that FGM, which he said “comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons” is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

The practice, the Catholic Priest notes, “reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.”

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“The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death,” he said.

Fr Konteh who also founded St. Mary’s Interim Child Care Centre in Sierra Leone’s Archdiocese of Freetown to provide a safe haven for molested girls seeking justice in the country says that to eradicate FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed.

Such efforts, he further says, must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality.

“These efforts should emphasize societal dialogue and the empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice. They must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences,” the Sierra Leonean Catholic Priest who has been feted widely, including being named among the 100 most influential personalities in Sierra Leone for his devotion to social work that spans more than 30 years, says.

He adds, “Community education is critical to increasing public awareness of the consequences of these practices and changing societal norms. That is the reason why Desert Flower Foundation conduct workshops and engage in sensitization and awareness raising drives to educate their beneficiaries and caregivers about the hazards of FGM.”


Adama Sam, the School and Adolescent Health Focal Person for Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Tonkolili District in Northern Sierra Leone, noted that FGM is mostly perpetuated against children who do not give consent. 

“When girls are cut, they face the immediate risk of hemorrhagic shock ranging from serious injury to infections and even death if these situations are not well managed,” the health official in Sierra Leone has been quoted as saying.  

She added, “The psychological impact of FGM can be devastating and long-lasting especially on girls who mostly feel deeply betrayed by their parents who insisted they be subjected to FGM.”

The government official notes that in young children, the loss of trust and confidence that comes with FGM can lead to behavioral problems alongside psychological pain. 

“As girls grow up and marry, the sexual dysfunction caused by FGM may put stress on their marriages,” she says, and adds that over the long term, FGM can leave serious psychological scars. 

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“Girls and women who experienced FGM may suffer anxiety, depression, and even loss of marital homes. The practice remains a grievous injury with a host of serious short- and long-term health risks for the victim,” Madam Adama Sam says in a report that was shared with ACI Africa. 

The health expert expresses her gratitude to DFF-SL for the entity’s unique drive to save girls from FGM in the country and especially Magburaka. 

She emphasizes the importance of the sponsorship drive the foundation is using to eradicate FGM and encourages parents and beneficiaries to make good use of the opportunity.

Information provided by Fr. Konteh describing the nature of DFF-SL indicates that the organization was founded by a group of socially committed individuals “in their pursuit of a better life for poor children and social development for the most marginal and deprived communities in Sierra Leone.”

“The purpose of Desert Flower Foundation-SL, which is ‘Save a Little Desert Flower’ is to facilitate independent living and sustainable development among the population DFF-SL serves. This is due to the high level of FGM,” reads the description of the foundation, which is said to offer education through Access, Advocating and Awareness in Sierra Leone for women and girls to be resilient.

According to the description, DFF-SL works to empower the most marginalized and deprived communities living in the rural and urban areas of Sierra Leone. 

“DFF-SL emerged out of the need to address the high level of ignorance and low level of self-development capacity that affects over eighty percent of men, women and young people in Sierra Leone,” the report that Fr. Konteh shared with ACI Africa indicates.

The Catholic Priest who is the charity foundation’s President says that the entity signs sponsorship contracts with the parents of the girls enrolled in its programs.

The contract, Fr. Konteh explains, guarantees the integrity of the girls who are periodically checked by a pediatrician. 

Furthermore, he says, “the girls are to attend school and the parents have the obligation to participate in educational programs and workshops organized by the foundation to help build the capacity and awareness of the parents.” 

“With sponsorship from the Desert Flower Foundation, the project supports the families of the beneficiaries with monthly funds to take care of their education, medical services and school materials,” Fr. Konteh says.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.