PARTNERING WITH TRADITIONAL, RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE REPOSITIONING OF FAMILY PLANNING AND THE PREVENTION OF TEENAGE PREGNANCY AND EARLY MARRIAGE IN SIERRA LEONE PDF Print E-mail
dscf0594The Office of the First Lady hosted the third traditional, religious and youth Leaders forum in Kabala, Koinadugu District this past week. This particular forum focused on the districts of the Northern Province while the core objective of the program continued to be the strengthening of traditional, religious and youth networks in their knowledge and capacity to advocate for the repositioning of family planning and prevention of teenage pregnancy.  Day 1 of the workshop started with a procession of pregnant and lactating mothers dressed in  CARMMASIL attire through Kabala and into the community center where the three day workshop was to take place. About 50 pregnant and lactating women marched with UNFPA and Office of the First Lady staff, including the UNFPA country and assistant country representatives, the Office of the First Lady program director, the matron of the Kabala hospital maternity ward and the program director of NatCom, a youth organization in Kabala. The women marched while singing the CARMMASIL theme song, “Belle Uman Nor for Die” (pregnant women shouldn’t die). Following the march, Her Excellency Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma formally greeted the pregnant and lactating mothers, paramount chiefs, and conference participants. Her opening statement focused on the importance of community leadership in advocating for family planning and preventingdscf0545 teenage pregnancy, stressing attitudinal change as a necessity to effectively improve reproductive and sexual health in Sierra Leone. Other statements were made from high level officials, including UNFPA country representative Ratidzai Ndlovu, Koinadugu District Medical officer Dr. Sandy, the Deputy Ministers from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and Honorable Paramount Chief Allie Balasama Marrah III. A common theme echoed throughout the respective statements was the importance of traditional, religious, community, youth and national leaders to nurture attitudes that support girls’ education and women’s empowerment to access health facilities and make safe decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Director of Reproductive, Dr. SAS Kargbo also gave a detailed overview of the status of maternal health care before and after the launching of the dscf3444Free Health Care Initiative and laid out continuing challenges in improving maternal and child health.  Following the statements other activities included theatre and musical performances from Freetong players and a collection of well-known Sierra Leonean female artists who composed the popular CARMMASIL theme song “Belle uman nor for die.” Day 2 and 3 of the program were more focused on dialog and group work. At the core of the program was group work, where youth, traditional and religious leaders came together by district and brainstormed ways to disseminate the information to their respective districts and continue to strengthen TRL networks to facilitate the repositioning of family planning and prevention of teenage pregnancy and early marriage. Examples of recommendations included community viewings of clips, establishing quarterly district meetings on sexual and reproductive health, building birth waiting homes, sensitization campaigns led by traditional and religious leaders and the continuing the establishing of by-laws todscf3474encourage skilled delivery during childbirth and prevent early marriage.