As part of the alternative economic livelihood program aimed at providing traditional practitioners with alternative sources of income to replace Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), in the targeted five Spotlight Counties, namely Grand Cape Mount, Monsterrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Grand Gedeh, traditional practitioners who embarked on climate-smart agriculture programs, recently harvested their first produce of rice in Sunkey Town, Todee District, Montserrado County.
The harvesting of rice by the traditional practitioners of Sunkey Town brought together the traditional community, government officials, the United Nations, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and Community Service organizations (CSOs). Traditional practitioners re-affirmed their commitment to ending the practice of FGM and empower themselves through the alternative economic livelihood program that was launched by the European Union and the United Nations Spotlight Initiative in December 2019.
The program is aimed at providing traditional practitioners with alternative sources of income to replace FGM.
In his remarks during the harvesting ceremony, the head of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders, Chief Zanzan commended the work that was being done with support from the Spotlight Initiative. He explained that the Chiefs and Elders of Liberia endorsed the program and it is not intended to destroy the Liberian culture but to modernize it to reach international standards.
“We have come to tell our people that the culture in Liberia is not going to be destroyed but rather, it will be modernized,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the traditional women, Setta Fofana Saah, National Coordinator of the Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia said the project is an eye-opener to Liberians who only see traditional practitioners as people who practice nothing good but evil. She added that asking people to abandon their way of life without a genuine cause or compensation is not something easy therefore the Spotlight Initiative and its partners used the right strategy by empowering traditional women and making them valuable in the eyes of their male counterparts.
Mr. Williams Jallah, the Director of Custom and Cultural Affairs in the Ministry of Internal Affairs who coordinates chiefs and traditional practitioners of Poro and Sande societies, and herbalists in Liberia said that the provision of alternative economic activities for traditional practitioners is intended to remove the negative aspect of the traditional practices and build and sustain the positive cultural heritage and make zoes abandon traditional practices such as forceful initiation and engage in more projects that will empower them.
“We want our Sande zoes to engage in other projects and have other skills and not just having Sande and Poro because these practices are seasonal,” explained Mr Jallah.
In appreciation, the traditional women thanked the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative for changing their mindset, empowering them, and making them self-reliant in society. The chairlady of the Sunkey farm, Massa Kandakai said before the project was launched, most women were struggling and carrying out Sande activities to make ends meet. However, she indicated that times have changed as the traditional women of Sunkey town are now independent and they can now generate their own income.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations. In Liberia, the Initiative seeks to eliminate all forms of violence against women, and by 2030.