Liberia: ‘Putting FGM to an End Is Non-negotiable’

Deputy Speaker Koffa.

 — Deputy Speaker rebukes Montserrado’s Chief Female Zoe over demand for ‘payoff’ to stop practicing FGM 

Liberia’s Deputy Speaker, Cllr. J. Fonati  Koffa, has condemned an assertion attributed to Madam Massa Kandakai, Montserrado County’s Chief Female Traditional Leader, that the practices of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) will continue unless “2,000 Zoes” are paid to stop the tradition.

The Deputy Speaker posted on his Facebook page on Monday that his attention was drawn to Kandakai's statement published in the Daily Observer. He termed the statement as “sad” and maintained that FGM is a harmful practice.

“This is a sad statement if she is quoted correctly. That FGM is a harmful practice is not in question. Putting it to an end is non-negotiable,” Deputy Speaker Koffa stated.

Also in response to Kandakai’s inquiry into the capacity to sustain  a living of 2,000 zones if FGM is abolished, the Deputy Speaker indicated: "I will support transitional financial clause in a proposed legislation so that we give budgetary support to transition the traditional females so that their livelihood does not depend on torturing another human being."

He furthered: "As we say in Liberia, 'what is fun for snake is death to frog.' This adage must only exist in the animal kingdom. But a society of humans must lift itself to a higher order.

"Besides  the practice of FGM being a traditional and mandatory rite of passage for girls and women practiced in 10 counties in Liberia, it seems personal, as also a source of livelihood.

“I have two hundred proper Zoes in Montserrado alone, with about 2,000 across the country. How do they expect us to live when the Government is not living by their promises to us,” Kandakai told a reporter over the weekend. 

Kandakai shockingly says all these efforts by the government and partners to end FGM will not materialize until they consider payment of Zoes, saying, “Sande schools are not only traditional but have economic benefits which they are surviving on.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker, the sponsor of the "FGM Abolition Bill", which is in the Committees' Room of the House of Representatives, has been recently lauded by the UN Goodwill Ambassador, Madam Jaha Dukureh, over his efforts to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia.

An Act Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation of 2022" which has been regarded as life-threatening to women; remains deeply entrenched in some societies, including Liberia, and is widely practiced in 10 out of 15 counties.

The UN Goodwill Ambassador on Female Genital Mutilation praised the Liberian Deputy Speaker for being a major player in the Legislature for championing bills in the interest of women including the bill to outlaw the practices of FGM.

For his part, Deputy Speaker Koffa reassured his commitment to the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia; adding that he will work with his legislative colleagues to ensure that the passage of a bill against FGM is passed into law.

"We want to call our colleagues to take a stand; we are prepared to lose the votes but we are not prepared to keep silent on this issue, so that is the stance we've taken," Cllr. Koffa stated.