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My name is Brenda Caesar Conteh . I am a blogger amongst so many other profession/hobbies. I blog about Female Genital Mutilation and many people reached out to me to continue writing. I must say I have never been initiated into the Bondo society; hence my materials are mainly from books and first-hand accounts by friends and families who have been initiated into the Bondo Society.

One may ask why even though it is a secret society information and pictures of this act of mutilation of the female external reproductive organs are out there. In Sierra Leone it was brought about by a woman called Madam Yoko who claimed that her main purpose is to teach women about how to become a wife and a mother. It was therefore deemed to be like a university where girls would learn valuable skills to take care of their homes when they get married. Rumours also said that Madam Yoko did that so that women who were mostly in polygamous marriages would be less ‘hungry for sex’. This she claimed would ensure they stay faithful to their husbands especially as these men took it in turns to sleep with their wives.

As a child growing up in the provinces in Sierra Leone girl were taken into the forest where they can be for months to years. Nowadays as girls attend school more they don’t take so long in the ‘bondo bush’. Some even get initiated at home. Before I came to England a neighbour initiated their daughters in their house and I remember vividly when the drums woke me up.

According to what my friends said they still suffer the trauma of such painful and overwhelming experiences. Some were initiated as young as 5 years or less. Whether they had confused or faint memories about such painful and horrifying experiences in the Bondo Bush or not, one thing they all described was the sharp pain they felt when they were sliced with little or no medication to numb the area. Some claimed that leaves were used to reduce the loss of blood and to numb the area.

Our parents told us that the secrets of the Bondo Society were widely spread in Sierra Leone when a European went and got herself initiated so that she would write a book about what really goes on in that society. She did so by entering the bondo bush without being invited and it is a fact that if you run into their bondo bush you would be forcefully initiated they had no option but to initiate her, she then returned to England and wrote a book about what happened in the Bondo Bush. She had to run into the bush because as one of their laws they don’t initiate strangers especially those from what they call ‘the white man’s country’.

This is an account by a friend whom I would call Adama in order to protect her identity. Adama said it was very early on a Sunday morning, when she had the screams of women who entered her room without knocking. Before she knew what was going on they have engulfed her sitting on her and opening her legs, Throughout the process the drums were beating and these women including her mum were clapping and singing.

It is said that the noise of the drums was to drown the cries of the initiates. She said the pain was so severe that she almost fainted. Hers was the stage three mutilation where all external parts of the women’s sexual organs were cut off. Wow! Even writing makes me feel so bad. She claimed that the physical pain is not to be compared with her emotional pain as she says the experience has even left a bad taste in her mouth whenever she wants to make love with her husband.

That is one of the major disadvantages of the Bondo Society - emotional damage. Also, Africa especially Sierra Leone doesn’t believe in therapy so these lady’s grow up to be scared for life. She also said she has a scar tissue on the place where the cutting took place. Even though it happened many years ago Adama says she still feel pains in that area and when she had to give birth, she had to undergo a surgery in the UK where the scar tissues were cleaned. I felt so bad that she had to undergo such trauma.

There are many good things about the bondo society like the dance and they way they are dressed. The process is like a wedding if not bigger as these girls no matter how little they are birth, now treated with respect in their community. In some parts of Sierra Leone especially in villages the older girl’s dances in front of chiefs and potential husbands who are mostly much older than them. These men /chiefs then choose his wife. Depending on the weight of his pocket or how popular he is (example the Chiefs and Paramount Chiefs) he arranges with the newly initiates family and go on to marry his bride.

Almost all of the ladies who have been initiated into the Bondo society wished they never went through what they claimed is unnecessary sufferings. When you look at the two main religion – Islam and Christianity there is no where that states that female should be circumcised. It is just a man and culture which a lot see as a way of suppressing the rights of a woman - including their right to enjoy sex and right not to have people touching their private and most sensitive part of their body without their permission.

In Sierra Leone a lot more girls attend school nowadays and the internet is exposing a lot about the horrors of such practices. As a result, many refuses to go through such rites of passage. This has led parents to initiate younger kids who barely remember the whole process. Many African countries ban such practices on children below a certain age (mostly 18 years), but like many other laws what is in paper is quite different from what is in reality.

If you want to know more about this ancient tradition that is still practised in Sierra Leone and other parts of the world my book would be out on that soon. Also, anyone that has been affected by the consequences and challenges of Female Genital Mutilation please feel free to contact me.

Written by:
Brenda Caesar Conteh
United Kingdom