Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), a long-term partner organization of TERRE DES FEMMES (TDF), fights against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone. According to UNICEF 88% of the girls have undergone FGM. There is no legal ban against FGM, the sole restriction in force being a minimum legal age of 18. The cutting is done by influential female secret societies as part of the rite of passage from girl- to womanhood. Most of the girls who have undergone FGM suffer their entire lives from the severe consequences of the extremely painful procedure. Some of them do not survive it.
In 2003 AIM was founded by the women's rights activist Rugiatu Turay. AIM has set up a unique safe house for girls in the country. 20 girls find refuge from an imminent genital mutilation, forced marriage and domestic violence there. All girls in the safe house continue to go to school. AIM mediates between the girls and their families. Awareness raising in the communities is essential, too. AIM has already managed convincing more than 60 female circumcisers to renounce the harmful practice of cutting.
Safety, school, mediation - a life of integrity and self-determination for every girl!
· Safety: Since 2012 TDF and AIM have been operating a safe house for girls in Lunsar, 80 km of the capital Freetown. Escaping from home is the very last option for many of these girls, when pleas and negotiations with their families prove futile and the girls risk being forcefully mutilated. The safe house is laid out for 15 girls but mostly 20 girls live there. More apply for admission. The safe house urgently needs to be enlarged and maintained. 30 girls should be accommodated there.
· School: Many parents use girls’ schooling to exert pressure: they will only pay for the girls and allow them to further go to school if the girls agree to the cutting. The girls do not want this. All girls staying at the safe house continue to go to school but school attendance in Sierra Leone has to be paid for. In 2017, TDF and AIM need support for the school fees of the five oldest girls in the safe house who are about to graduate. With a school degree at hands, they can learn a profession and earn their own money.
· Mediation: AIM does not only provide protection to the girls but also talks to their parents - often parents fear to expose their daughters to insult and disgrace if the latter do not undergo FGM. A girl who refuses to be circumcised breaks with the tradition and may face problems to find a husband. Therefore showing parents alternatives is very important. Several mediation talks have yielded positive results. Parents decided to not let their daughters undergo FGM and girls could return home. In 2017, mediation talks should be held with at least 20 parents.