The Office of the First Lady in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on 6th April ended a three-day forum for traditional, religious leaders and young people to advocate for better reproductive health with emphasis on the repositioning of family planning and prevention of teenage pregnancy and early marriage in Sierra Leone . The forum held at the Kailahun District Council hall, attracted participants from the Eastern Region.
The First Lady, Sia. Nyama Koroma, stated that she has chosen traditional and religious leaders for this 3-day meeting because they are duty bearers that can effectively influence positive change in their communities. She urged them to take the lead in the fight to reduce maternal death and infant death among their women and children, and encouraged their women and men to participate in family planning.
Madam Koroma maintained that the support for pregnant women must be organized to deal with the challenges faced by those in remote communities such as Kailahun. The center piece of her intervention, she said will lead to increase knowledge and access to family planning services within the communities. This, she added, will take the form of setting-up and strengthening traditional and religious leaders’ network. She concluded by inviting pregnant and lactating mothers in front of the high table, noting that they were the second set of women wearing a specially made CARMMA cloth to spread the message that no woman should die while giving life.
In her presentation on the status of maternal health in Sierra Leone, Sister Florence Kanu said that child birth is supposed to be a universally celebrated event, an occasion for dancing, fireworks, flowers and gifts. But yet still, for many thousands of women, each day it is not experienced as a joyful event but as private or personal hell that may end in death.
“Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world, a woman dies as a result of complications arising during pregnancy and childbirth”, she stated.
Dr Jarrie Kabba Kebbay in her presentation on UNFPA support to TRLs for the promotion of maternal health in Sierra Leone explained that TRLs were engaged to disseminate appropriate information about family planning and maternal health in their communities ; to increase knowledge and understanding of causes and consequences of maternal mortality as a key development challenge; to strengthen the capacity of traditional and religious leaders to assist people and communities to reduce maternal mortality and to have better quality of life
Dr Kabba Kebbay reiterated that TRLs were also engaged to develop a Plan of Action that identifies concrete actions to be undertaken by them to strengthen their partnerships and capacity to act to improve maternal mortality and to strengthen traditional and religious leaders’ networks to operate in support of UNFPA’s mandate.
In their presentations on the role of Christians and Muslims in promoting maternal health in Sierra Leone, Reverend S Pambu and Alhaji Teslim Alghali noted that both the Bible and Koran supports Family Planning and condemned violence against women and children. They both quoted scriptures in the Bible and Suras in the Koran that talk about Family planning and violence against women
Paramount Sheku Fasuluku in his presentation on the role of traditional leaders in Sierra Leone’s culture and tradition, explained that Paramount Chiefs are ready to champion the course of Family Planning.
He stated that the general expectations of Paramount Chiefs, is to have plenty wives and children, but now it has changed to one wife and few children. Presentations were also made by Reverend George Buannie, the Medical Chief Supretiendent Kailahun Government hospital, Dr. Masuba, Chief Mrs Fatu Kargbo Naansu Fofanah and Mrs Olive Musa.
At the end of the forum, a network was formed and certificates distributed to each participant.