Caritas Freetown Official Calls for Renewed Fight against FGM in Sierra Leone

Participants at a Saturday, January 28 girls' conference in Sierra Leone. Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

The Executive Director of Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone has called for renewed awareness of the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a rampant practice in the West African country that he says is denying young girls opportunities in life.

In his address at the Saturday, January 28 girls’ convention that was held at Wesleyan Conference Centre in Makeni city, Fr. Peter Konteh emphasized the need to promote educational opportunities for girls, and to end retrogressive cultural practices that harm young women.

Fr. Konteh described FGM as “a harmful traditional practice that can have severe physical and psychological consequences for women and girls.”

FGM, is a violation of women’s basic human rights and, unfortunately, has no medical benefits, the member of the Clergy of the Archdiocese of Freetown said in his address at the conference that was organized on the theme, “Stop Underage and Forced FGM, Support Girl Child Education”. 

“It is important that we work together to end this practice and protect the rights of women and girls,” Fr. Konteh said in a message he shared with ACI Africa, and added, “One way to do this is by providing education and awareness about the harm caused by FGM. This can be done through community outreach, workshops, and campaigns.”


“By providing education and opportunities for girls, we can empower them to make informed choices about their bodies and their futures,” the Catholic Priest said, adding that education is a powerful tool in the fight against FGM and in promoting gender equality.

Fr. Konteh also underlined the need to work to address underlying social and cultural factors that contribute to the continuation of the practice.

“We must challenge harmful gender stereotypes and promote equal rights and opportunities for women and girls,” he said.

In his address, Fr. Konteh underscored the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting sustainable development in the West African country.

He also highlighted the barriers that girls face in accessing formal education, such as poverty, cultural norms, and lack of infrastructure and resources.

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The Catholic Priest identified the role that governments, NGOs, and communities can play in addressing promoting girl child education, and explained, “It is imperative that the society as a whole takes the responsibility to ensure that girls get the education they need and deserve.”

“It is important to involve local communities and leaders in the process of promoting education for girls, as they are best placed to understand the specific needs and challenges facing girls in their area,” said. 

The founder of Desert Flower Foundation-Sierra Leone (DFF-SL), a charitable organization that is keeping girls away from FGM, added, “Working in partnership with other organizations and stakeholders can help to leverage resources and increase the impact of efforts to promote girls' education.”

He continued, “Education is the key that can open many doors for girls and allow them to reach their full potential and contribute to their communities and countries.”

DFF-SL is keeping hundreds of girls from vulnerable families from joining Bondo Secret Society, an underground society that champions FGM and other traditional practices in Sierra Leone.


The foundation, which was established in 2014 has saved about 1,500 girls who have been enrolled in schools across the West African country.

DFF-SL was started 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,” according to information provided on its website.

“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. 

Caritas Sierra Leone’s School-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SR-SGBV) and Life Skills Program is the other organization providing access to girls’ empowerment in the West African country.

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The program was started to address the high number of teenage pregnancies and school dropout rates among girls and is keeping more girls in school.

According to Fr. Konteh, 85 percent of girls in schools that are involved in the program have recorded an improvement in their academic performance.

Additionally, 80 percent of girls who enrolled for the program in the Archdiocese of Freetown have reported that they confidently attend classes during menstruation, Fr. Konteh said at a past celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.

The Caritas Freetown Director noted that the Church-based charity organization was working with other stakeholders in the country to turn around the situation of the girl child in the country.

“Caritas has a well-established reputation of working hand in hand with parents, male peers, and local community-based organizations in Sierra Leone to help girls get the education they need for themselves, their family, their country, and the world. Taken, by supporting and focusing on the girl’s voice, it helps our equal future,” Fr. Konteh said.

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.