One of the many struggles Africa faces today is the prevalent traditional practices that put the lives of young girls and women at risk. Day in and out, women and girls across Africa are forced to go through dangerous rites to usher them into womanhood, prove their worth or prepare them for marriage.
Widowhood rites and witch camps are also a few traditional practices older women are made to go through. Of all these degenerating practices, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Early Child Marriage (ECM) are the highest practised across Africa. Despite many interventions by the government, international health bodies and NGOs, many young girls and women still fall victim to such practices.
The call for action against these practices is the responsibility of African women, and the Big Sisters movement launched in Senegal this year is proving to the world just that.
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As the name rightly indicates, The Big Sisters are a coalition of empowered African women leading grassroots organizations to end FGM and early childhood marriage in The Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Somalia.
Their goal is to, “build the movement in every community that will inspire and influence our leaders to issue an African Union-wide ban on FGM and early childhood marriage by 2020,” states the movement’s website.
The organisation made its first appearance on 8 March 2018 in Dakar, Senegal, after a soft launch. Many of the excited members and supporters of the movement took to Twitter to make the announcement about the new era of FGM and ECM eradication in Senegal.
Meet the Big Sisters. Join the movt launched on #WomensDay in Dakar #Senegal to end FGM and early child marriage. Dakar will host 1st African summit on FGM & early marriage in December#kebetu pic.twitter.com/vTzyUjJnW4
— Aisha Dabo™ (@mashanubian) March 9, 2018
The Big Sisters movement comes as a relief as many African countries have been facing immense struggles eradicating these practices. The group brings together women from all walks of life who have in one way or another contributed to the eradication of such practices in the country.
Some of the members include Jaha Dukureh, Founder and Executive Director of Safe Hands for Girls, based in the U.S, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone; Ifra Ahmed, Founder of Ifrah Foundation focusing on ending FGM in Somalia; Lisa Camara, Programs Manager for Safe Hands for Girls in The Gambia; Gift Augustine, CesVed Lead in Cross River State, Nigeria, Former Midwife; Domtila Chesang, Founder of Beyond FGM in West Pokoy County, Kenya among many others.
The movement is open to membership across Africa and is set to host a 2-day summit in Dakar, Senegal, in December. The summit will educate attendees on the practices and work towards an AU campaign to ban the practices in Africa.
It is a good thing that women and young girls are standing up to defend and protect themselves against such practices. Using the example of slaves who fought, rebelled and spoke against slavery until they gained it, the Big Sisters movement is a step in the right direction.