Before Pedro da Centra set foot on the shores of our land and called it Sierra Lyoa (Sierra Leone or Mountain of Lion), the peoples of this land had forms of governing themselves and a social order that sustained our society and helped us survive the elements. Of course, we lost grip on self-governance from the first time our men and women were hunted down and taken into slavery by white supremacists and the eventual move of the British into our land as rulers. As the saying goes, “the rest is history.” We are still struggling to self-govern, despite nearly sixty years of “independence.”
The white Europeans who waged the physical war on our land and people resulting in the enslavement our men and women, as well as robbing us of our ways of governing ourselves, also waged a cultural war on us and have for centuries been trying to decimate our social order. White supremacists know that the key to complete conquer of a people is to make them lose sight of their culture; this is why Africans who were taken as slaves to America were robbed of their given and family names. In most African cultures, we assume relations and solidarity with others with whom we share family names; that kind of communal culture would have caused serious problems for slave masters. But the African slaves not knowing or perceiving each other as relatives made it easier for the white masters to conquer them as slaves by keeping them divided by their names and apart geographically.
The culture war, however, has been difficult for the white man to win in Africa. By some means, the peoples of Sierra Leone have managed to maintain social order, particularly through the two main cultural institutions, Poro Society for men and the Sande/Bondo Society for women. These two institutions have served to empower both men and women with knowledge, skills and social and political power in our society. In poro, boys become men; they learn essential skills, such as hunting and how to be pillars in society. In Sande/Bondo, girls become women; they learn essential skills that empower them to heal and be pillars in society, being the primary caretakers in the family and community. Whether times are good or bad, women’s roles are invaluable in Sierra Leonean culture.
The first thing a boy goes through in his initiation into poro society is circumcision. Likewise, the first thing a girl goes through in her initiation into Sande/Bondo Society is circumcision. This has been going on for ages, the first European invaders noticed how empowering these institutions are and tried, in vain, to invade them so that they could device means of decimating them. The main tool of that era in this cultural war was religion.
Fast forward to the present NGO Era, their new weapon is shrouded in “humanitarian assistance.” With this new weapon, the white supremacists have built a structure in which the foot soldiers of their cultural war are Africans themselves. Millions, if not, billions of dollars are given to so called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Africa every year for what they call female genital mutilation (FGM), a term white folks came up with to describe African women who are members of the Sande/Bondo Society. With such a derogatory term, they have tried for years to taint our culture. White supremacists have been spending tons of money to convince the world that the women’s institutions in Africa are “harmful,” as a way to end African women’s ability to maintain agency through their women’s society. No one is calling yet for the dismantling of the poro society, but we know that it would be their next target.
One of the main reasons Sierra Leone has one of the highest illiteracy rates among women is the grave fear the people have that once their girls are educated and exposed to western ideals, they would turn their noses up on our culture. This is why girls in most families are not allowed to attend school, some who start are not supported to continue into secondary or post secondary levels. Beyond the essential and life preserving practical roles women play in our society, they also serve as preservers of our culture; thus, most families believe that keeping girls out of western education is a means of preserving our culture.
For instance, our mothers often prefer that their sons marry women from their tribes or regions because they worry about whether their sons would maintain their traditions without a wife who understands or follows our culture. Men who marry white women or otherwise western minded women are often perceived as having gone astray, “their children would never understand our ways,” family members would say. Of course, many Sierra Leonean men have married outside their tribes and regions and have still upheld their traditions all the same. But this is just to highlight the invaluable role of women as preservers of our culture in the Sierra Leonean social order.
The new and current Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, who by all looks of things, from her speeches to her writings, is not an educated woman, is proving our people right; western exposure has not only robbed this woman of our values and culture, it has made her into a foot soldier and a weapon in the white supremacists’ war on our culture.
She was discovered by her “FUNDERS” in Guinea, during the Sierra Leone war. With no prospect of finding a visa to repatriate to greener land in America or Europe as many others did, she grabbed the next best thing; formed a fictitious NGO, as many others have done. She has received millions of dollars through her NGO from white supremacist German and other European foundations who are waging war on the women’s institutions in Sierra Leone and elsewhere, in the name of “anti-FGM.” She continues being used as their weapon even after her political connections to President Ernest Koroma led to appointing her as deputy minister.