Caritas Freetown Celebrates Girls Overcoming Adversity to Pursue Education in Sierra Leone

A section of children living at St. Mary's Fatima Interim Care Centre, a children's home started by Fr. Peter Konteh to provide care to vulnerable children in Sierra Leone. Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh/Facebook

In their pursuit for formal education, many Sierra Leonean girls still grapple with a myriad of challenges including poverty, domestic violence and retrogressive practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages.

In his message on the International Day of the Girl Child that was celebrated on Wednesday, October 11, the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone, Fr. Peter Konteh, lauded girls who are working hard against these challenges to be successful in life.

“Sierra Leone has witnessed incredible success stories of resilience and determination among its girl children. Many girls have defied societal expectations and overcome adversity to pursue their dreams and become change-makers in their communities,” Fr. Konteh said.

He added, “Caritas Freetown celebrates and applauds these remarkable achievements, and we are committed to amplifying their voices, providing mentorship, and creating opportunities for them to thrive.”

According to the Caritas Freetown Executive Director, the International Day of the Girl Child serves as a global reminder of the challenges girls face and the importance of empowering them to become agents of change in their respective communities.


He said that Sierra Leone had made remarkable progress in addressing barriers that hinder the development and well-being of girls, and added, “However, it is crucial to acknowledge that significant challenges persist, and concerted efforts are required to overcome them.”  

In the West African country in particular, he said access to quality education remains a pressing issue for many girls.

“Despite efforts to improve enrollment rates, girls continue to face obstacles such as poverty, early marriage, cultural norms, and gender-based violence,” Fr. Konteh said. 

He added, “Caritas Freetown recognizes the importance of education in empowering girls and breaking the cycle of poverty. We remain committed to working closely with local communities, government agencies, and other stakeholders to promote and facilitate girls' education.”

The member of Clergy of the Archdiocese of Freetown went on to highlight rampant child marriage and teenage pregnancies as some of the issues that he said continue to threaten the future of many girls in Sierra Leone.

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“Caritas Freetown strongly condemns these practices and advocates for policies and programs that protect girls from these harmful practices,” the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown said, adding, “We strive to raise awareness, provide counseling and support, and create safe spaces where girls can access information and resources to make informed decisions about their lives.”

The Catholic Priest appealed to stakeholders in Sierra Leone’s education sector to embrace a collaborative approach in creating an enabling environment for girls in the country, saying, “Together, we can break down barriers, challenge gender stereotypes, and empower girls with the tools they need to fulfill their potential.”

He pledged to continue working tirelessly, through Caritas Freetown, to advocate for the rights of the girl child, provide essential services, and create opportunities for girls in his native country.

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

Established in 2014, DFF-S has saved about 1,500 girls from joining Bondo Secret Society, which also champions other traditional practices in Sierra Leone.


The foundation signs sponsorship contracts with the parents of the girls enrolled in its programs. The contract guarantees the integrity of the girls who are periodically checked by a pediatrician. 

The girls, Fr. Konteh explained in a past report, “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 said in the report shared with ACI Africa in February 2022.

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.