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HomeCommentaryThat audacious campaign against Bondo Society…

That audacious campaign against Bondo Society…

That audacious campaign against Bondo Society…

The Bondo Secret Society is one of the customary and traditional heritages of the current generation of Sierra Leoneans.

The Bondo Secret Society has a very long history, and the interesting side of it is that it is practiced in other countries around the world, especially in Africa where it seems to have its root.

The Bondo Secret Society is strictly a woman’s thing and therefore whatever happens therein is supposed to be a deep secret.

I will hence make no attempt to go into the intricacies or details, but rather emphasize the fact that the vast majority of Sierra Leonean women and many, many more to come are or would-be members of the society, whether voluntarily or as tradition demands or otherwise.

For parents in/from traditional settings, sending their girl child for initiation into the Bondo Society is a norm and cannot be negotiated or avoided.

Accordingly, the original spirit behind the Bondo Secret Society was to create a platform for young girls to be trained in home management and husband/child care.

Whether this spirit remains alive is in itself a different issue altogether, but what has come out clearly is that the relevance of the society in this 21st century and beyond has been heavily challenged by especially international actors.

The campaign against the relevance of the society started on a very small scale some ten years ago, but was met with a very stiff resistance by front runners of the society (commonly known as Soweis) who even at one time staged a protest action threatening to strip themselves naked.

Their members who were deemed to have cooperated with the anti-Bondo campaigners by way of arranging meetings for them were dismissed as betrayers and therefore made open targets. Suspected betrayers were forced to abandon their villages or even flee the country in fear for their lives.

Just over two years ago, a female journalist working with the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC), Madam Balima Samba was kidnapped by members of the Bondo Society over a small brawl. It should be noted that Madam Balima Samba also happens to be a long time member of the society.

To many observers, Madam Samba was a mere victim of a desperate group of women trying to assert their relevance and customary authority in the face of an unprecedented challenge.

It also shows that the women concerned are prepared to do anything in defence of their sacred society and that nowhere in the country will be safe for anyone who attempts to undermine the sanctity of the society to which all the big Sierra Leonean female ancestral names like Madam Yoko, belonged.

For a campaign against the society to gain grounds therefore it requires a huge political will and by the look of things, it is as difficult as the word itself for such a campaign to bear any good fruit.

Yollah Bangura, the Northern Region Human Rights Officer of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) said at a recent function in Makeni that “The most difficult challenge is that those in authority are mostly countrymen with unbreakable customary and traditional ties and therefore have little or nothing to do about changing anything”.

This was buttressed recently by an utterance by the Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, Moijue Kaikai, that “Our traditions must be respected and that the government will not interfere in secret societal matters as long as they do not pose a threat to national security or infringe on the rights of anyone without due cause”.

There have been times wherein the police have clamped down on Soweis (Bondo initiators) following reported deaths of newly initiated girls due to excessive bleeding, but often times the cases die naturally because there is absolutely no governmental control over what obtains in the Bondo Bush or indeed any other secret society and their overall activities.

A number of girls have died in the hands of Soweis but that notwithstanding, the practice remains as popularly accepted and practiced as ever before.

New ways, according to research, have been devised to ease up the pain girls have to go through during the period of initiation and the ensuing bleeding. One of the new ways includes the application of anesthetic.

Whether these new ways are good enough to justify the continuation of the practice citing customs and traditions remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the process of initiation involves the taking away of a sensitive part from a woman’s private part.

Because the original argument that initiating girls into the Bondo Society is mainly to prepare them for marriage no longer holds in many, if not in all instances, the new argument has shifted towards defending the removal of the said sensitive part.

Accordingly, the removal of the sensitive part helps reduce the sexual urge of initiated women and also reduces the chances of them have multiple sex partners as compared to uninitiated women who are perceived as having high feeling for sex and are sometimes sexually unsatisfied.

Anti-Bondo activists have however put forward a contrary argument, claiming that uninitiated women are much easier to satisfy sexually than the initiated women who in most times hardly reach orgasm.

In a casual argument between initiated and uninitiated women recently, the issue of low or high sexual urge was laid to rest, in that both categories of women conceded to the fact that the uninitiated women have greater urge for sex than the initiated.

What was however not laid to rest throughout the casual argument was which category of woman that easily gets satisfied sexually.

“It all depends on the man”, said one of the initiated women who went on to say that “I was a virgin when I got initiated so my experience is limited”.

None of the women in the argument has experienced having sex as an uninitiated woman and having sex as an initiated woman. While this makes it difficult to prove anything, what compounded the whole thing was the fact that at least two of the initiated women said they reach orgasm each time they have sex.

“Men are the best judges in this because they have both initiated and initiated women at their disposal”, one of the initiated women said, adding that “As far I am concerned I don’t see any difference because after all both the initiated and uninitiated get impregnated and bear children”.

One of the uninitiated women was quick to interject by stating that “It’s not the makeup of the woman’s sex organ that plays the magic of child bearing, what does it is the male’s sperm”.

So you see, all these point out to the fact that times are changing and as things unfold, the relevance of the Bondo Society continues to come under the spotlight and as one of the initiated women in the casual discussion in question puts it “I am in total regret as to why my parents had to let me go through that utter wickedness”.

Knowing full well that their society is under serious threat especially with the reference made to it as ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ or FGM for short, the initiated women are more than desperate to protect and defend what they perceive as their most sacred inheritance and could do anything to assert their authority.

For this reason, initiated women who in one way or the other have found themselves in the bad books of their initiated colleagues always have to keep a distance or face their wrath, sometimes in very despicable ways.

With Theophilus Sahr Gbenda (Mo-Fire)

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    22nd January 2014

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