We have failed women, and we have done so miserably. The habitual fetishizing of young girls, a deep-seated disregard for women, a cowardly attitude that continues to malign policy work aimed at empowering women. Our ferocious need to preserve the family’s good name, and in some cases the abuse and misuse of power; have all made it quite impossible to change rape culture and rampant sexual misconduct in Sierra Leone.
There have not been any serious repercussions for perpetrators. Evidence gets suppressed, so cases go cold. The affluent and powerful pay bribes to cover their crimes. Family members habitually repress the voices of victims. Almost all of the cases are shrouded in secrecy. The community seems jaded by a transparent veil; we can all see through but will not penetrate. Gender-based violence in Sierra Leone is another pandemic.
It is not only time for the government to do something. It is past time. Citizens have to do their part as well. Mothers and fathers are trading their daughters’ innocence for amenities that certain rich and powerful men can provide. Where upholding the family’s name in society’s good graces trumps protecting our women, there lies the problem. When we can separate right and wrong from politics, we will win. We cannot continue in this stance because women are continually disparaged in Sierra Leone’s gender privilege game.
The world is at the cusp of broaching something big. It’s more than likely that our planet will not return to its normal complacent state around all of these inequities. We have to change. Too many have bastardized privileges for too long, so let us commit to creating spaces for the downtrodden to voice their concerns. Where women have suffered in silence, let us say no more and open up avenues for clear, honest dialogue. Remove the veil. Men can and should be held accountable for these heinous sex crimes against women, regardless of their position in society. Prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Consequences for bad behavior cannot only be imagined or thwarted by strong-arming custodians of the law. They have to be justifiably implemented for the behavior to change.
From your positions of influence and power, pray not for a community of docile constituents; pray instead for a people who can challenge you to do better. Open yourselves up to the idea that change is good. Grow from the need for it. It is the one thing you cannot successfully do from complacency. Daring to go against the grain is the only way we can truly lead.
Let us lift the girl child in solidarity with all who suffer in silence, and all who are mustering up the courage to speak. Let us remember the many who will not speak.
Today we pray for Khadijah, a five-year-old girl who was allegedly brutally raped and murdered in Sierra Leone.
Stand up for us and support us so we can have the courage we need to begin to tell our stories. Often our violators are close family and friends. We are grateful that we get the chance to speak our truths. Believe us when we do.
— dedicated to brave women and girls the world over —