FAHP Disappointed in Social Welfare Ministry

By Stephen V. Lansana

Minster of Social Welfare, Dr. Sylvia Blyden

Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP), a coalition of civil society organizations, is disappointed in the Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children`s Affairs (MSWGCA) for failure to act on a draft National Strategy for Reduction of Child/forced Marriage and Female Circumcision (FGC).

The Coordinator of Forum Against Harmful Practices (FAHP), Hannah Yambasu told a news on Wednesday, August 24, that they don`t know why the minister is sitting on the progress and development of women.

The conference was held following the death of Fatmata Turay, 19, a senior secondary school 4 (SSS4) student on August 12, 2016 in a Bondo initiation bush in Makeni.

She said that MSWGCA is responsible for the protection of women and children in the country.

“The document which is supposed to promote the rights of women and girls is still lying on her [minister] table for no reason, and no statement has been made,” she said. She said that it is a disappointment for children and all women.

“Maybe after the press conference, the minister will tell us why she is not giving her support to women,” she said.

Salamatu M. Kamara, chairperson for FAHP, emphasized that for them it is not just disappointing, but also frustrating because the National Strategy for the Reduction of Child/Forced Marriage and Female Circumcision (FGC) was developed by the ministry, adding that the ministry took the lead in the development of the strategy.

She maintained that most of them have their interest in the strategy because they put their time and resources in it.

“For us, for just one person to say that the document is not legal, is disappointing and frustrating to our work,” she emphasized.

She called on the MSWGCA to take immediate steps to approve and endorse the strategy which has been before the minister for some months now.

In her response to the allegation, the Minster of Social Welfare, Dr. Sylvia Blyden said, “I’m challenging the FAHP to produce any evidence of them. He specifically expressed concern to me over the FGM strategy prior to their press conference on Wednesday. They have never done so! Never. The ongoing issue is just dirty politics being played by them, but I will not be distracted.”

“The FGM strategy document given indicates that hundreds of thousands of dollars are to be granted to organizations like FAHP. But let these organizations keep in mind that we cannot sacrifice respect for majority of our women on the altar of hundreds of thousands of dollars they seek to be granted. Every stakeholder should feel being part and parcel of any national strategy,” she said

“Furthermore, I inherited a draft strategy that has already received serious criticisms from a huge swathe of Sierra Leonean women who say they were not consulted in its development. I have several communication from many women groups around Sierra Leone, asking me to put a hold on implementing the strategy until they are fully involved in its development,” Dr. Blyden said.

“Meanwhile, I have never received any communication from the so called FAHP expressing concern over me allegedly failing to act on the strategy. The first time I heard of their displeasure with me, was from their press conference they held on Wednesday,” she said.