Girls in Sierra Leone need us
By Hassatou Sambou, Country Coordinator for Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mauritania
Today, the world will celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Yes, because even though we’re in 2015, 35% of women and girls will still experience some form of physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
From today, people will be organising activities around the world to mobilise for women and girls. From the UK to the Democratic Republic of Congo or Brazil, people of all ages, races and genders will be coming together to show their commitment to a world where women and girls are not subjected to violence just for being who they are.
Unfortunately, I definitely know of at least one country, where girls won’t be celebrating- Sierra Leone. Back in April, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced that visibly pregnant girls would not be allowed to come to school or to sit exams. Since then, humiliating measures have been put in place to make sure that all pregnant girls are excluded, even those who are not yet visibly showing. This can include teachers feeling girls’ breasts and stomach.
Although the government knows such tests are being used, it has not issued any directives to stop the abusive practice.
Just a week ago in this small but wonderful West African country, most pregnant girls were excluded from taking the BECE, an exam that is crucial to continue higher education. It’s hard to talk about a future where girls would not be subjected to violence in such a context.
This situation really makes me sad. These girls might have become pregnant for many different reasons. Some will be pregnant as a result of rape. For this pregnancy to mean that they won’t have their right to education protected anymore, in a country where only 52% of girls between 15 and 24 are literate, compared to 70% of boys, is very worrying. And it really makes me want to do something.
So until the situation of pregnant girls in Sierra Leone changes, I will call on President Koroma and the Minister of Education Minkailu Bah to stop discriminatory and degrading treatment of girls, and to respect their human rights. I hope you will do the same!
Today I’m asking you to join me in calling for an end to the discrimination against girls in Sierra Leone. Please tweet the President and show him you stand for equality.
.@presidentkoroma @Minkailubah Allow pregnant girls to sit crucial exams – they deserve a future bit.ly/SLGirls #ShamedandBlamed
.@presidentkoroma @Minkailubah Stop discriminatory and degrading treatment of girls, respect their HR bit.ly/SLGirls #ShamedAndBlamed
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.