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29. September 2022 - News

Working with girls in Sierra Leone: Safe spaces for serious topics

Whether it is child marriage or female genital cutting: violence against women is all-pervading in Sierra Leone. Nine out of ten girls are affected by female genital cutting, and more than a half are married off before their 18th birthday. The organisation Girl2Girl is taking a stand against this and providing education about topics considered taboo. Once girls have acquired this new knowledge, nobody can take it away from them. medica mondiale has been supporting Girl2Girl since 2019.

Sexuality, contraception, menstruation, protection against violence: These are all serious topics which only a few girls in Sierra Leone are able or willing to talk openly about – especially if harassment is affecting them even at everyday locations such as the public washing places.
So the organisation Girl2Girl has set itself the task of establishing “Girl Networks” within local communities. Together with medica mondiale, Girl2Girl is training young women volunteers to speak to other girls in their communities about important topics such as sexuality and women’s rights. This also includes devoting significant time to the issue of female genital cutting – a very widespread problem in Sierra Leone.

Long-term awareness-raising work in schools: Youth share knowledge on sexuality and girls’ rights with peers

Girl2Girl also provides specific training for psychosocial volunteers on how to speak to school pupils. The organisation then sets up clubs within schools where girls and boys together gain access to information on gender, menstruation, contraception, and violence against women. The members of these clubs can then pass on their knowledge to their peers – an effective and long-term way of community learning.

Girl2Girl creates safe spaces for women and girls within their communities

As well as information provision, Girl2Girl also sets up safe spaces for girls and young women in the suburbs of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. In order to do this, the organisation involves community elders, institutions, teachers, pastors and imams – a successful strategy. After one information event, a mother decided to declare part of her plot of land to be a protected space for women and girls. Now they can wash their laundry in peace, without any men harassing them.

Eliminating violence against women: A task for society as a whole

This example shows how changes in people’s minds can be achieved, leading to active contributions towards women’s rights. This is especially true where Girl2Girl is active. Especially in rural areas, there is often a low level of awareness of the structural discrimination and violence faced by women. Society devotes very little time and effort to considering these issues – which is exactly where Girl2Girl starts.