Liberia achieved another significant milestone recently in its relentless battle against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as former practitioners from Nimba County, in northern Liberia, relinquished traditional tools they once used to perform FGM, symbolizing an end to this harmful practice in that part of the region.
The ceremony unfolded at the Gbanquoi Vocational and Heritage Centre, constructed by UN Women under the auspices of the European Union and the United Nations Spotlight Initiative.
It served as a poignant moment of transformation as former traditional practitioners, adorned in white headgear and bearing containers draped in white cloths, ceremoniously handed over their tools to Chief Zanzan Karwor, Chairperson of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia.
The event was graced by various esteemed stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, the Embassy of Sweden, UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, civil society organizations, local authorities from Nimba, and traditional practitioners from various counties across the country.
Nimba County has now become the fourth out of eleven counties where FGM was practiced and characterized by traditional rituals, effectively ending the practice. Prior traditional ceremonies to halt FGM were previously held in Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, and Bong Counties. This momentous achievement aligns with Chief Zanzan Karwor’s historic proclamation on February 6, 2023, to ban FGM throughout Liberia.
The ban not only marks the end of the harmful practice of cutting women and girls but also underscores the promotion of positive cultural practices, such as singing, dancing, and weaving, among others, which is now widely recognized as ‘initiation without mutilation.’ Chief Zanzan Karwor said on the occasion.
He reaffirmed the commitment of traditional leaders to abandon the FGM practice.
At the same time, Ambassador Juli Endee, Executive Director for Crusaders of Peace and Cultural Queen of Liberia, emphasized that traditional leaders voluntarily chose to end FGM, driven by their belief in doing the right thing to accelerate development.
Ambassador Endee expressed deep appreciation to development partners for their unwavering support and highlighted the importance of engaging traditional leaders and Zoes (traditional practitioners) to ensure the success of this transformative process.
For her part, Comfort Lamptey, UN Women’s Country Representative for Liberia, applauded Chief Zanzan Karwor for his leadership and commitment to safeguarding the cultural passage rites of women and girls without the harmful effects of FGM.
She highlighted that Nimba County is home to one of the four vocational and heritage centers established with the support of the European Union and the United Nations through the Spotlight Initiative.
“These centers aim to provide former traditional practitioners of FGM with alternative economic livelihood programs while preserving cultural heritage without FGM.” she indicated.
Nimba County authorities have expressed appreciation for the construction of heritage centers and urged former practitioners to utilize these centers for empowerment activities, ensuring they serve their intended purpose.
In addition, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, Parleh Harris, expressed gratitude to all stakeholders, including traditional leaders, for their courage in ending FGM.
She encouraged everyone to move forward with unwavering determination, as the practice has now been banned, proudly proclaiming, “We will now be telling our story to other countries about how we did it.”
Meanwhile, UN Women is actively supporting the rollout of the ban on FGM, with funding from the Government of Sweden. Editing by Jonathan Browne