Authorities at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and National Council of Chiefs have endorsed a resolution by traditional leaders that called for a one year suspension of all traditional schools, specifically the Sande (Women’s secret) groves in the country, a release has said.
At the end of a consultative meeting among traditional leaders held in Gompa, Nimba County, June 24-25, 2019, the participants resolved a temporary suspension of all Sande society practices, and activities to address some aspects of the Sande society (Traditional Women Bush School), often considered by human rights organizations, and some of international partners as ‘’harmful tradition’’ in the country.
An MIA release said the endorsement was signed on Monday, July 1, 2019 in Monrovia by Internal Affairs Minister, Varney A. Sirleaf and Chief Zanzar Karwor, Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs.
The ceremony was graced by Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, UN Women Country Representative Madam Marie Goreth Nizigama, Swedish Embassy’s Head of Development Corporation, Madam Elizabeth Harlemann, and Dr. Hans Lambrecht of the European Union, including an array of traditional chiefs, elders and tribal governors.
According to the resolution, the traditional leaders say their attention have also been drawn particularly to the increase of Sande bushes/groves even after traditional leaders’ commitment to conduct an inventory to address these problems.
The MIA and the Council of Chiefs also endorsed that effective immediately a three-month ultimatum be given to all groves currently operating to conclude their activities, and close in observance of the suspended timeframe.
While the suspension remains in enforced, all operating certificates and licenses will be withdrawn from traditional practitioners, and a comprehensive national inventory will be conducted of all Sande bushes and Zoes (traditional practitioners), following which trained zoes will be re-licensed or re-registered before the resumption of operations after the suspension period elapsed.
The resolution warned that any traditional leader (traditional practitioner) or Sande zoe caught violating this pronouncement during the period of suspension shall be penalized in keeping with the traditional laws and policies of Liberia or be held liable on convention of a fine as provided for under Section 50.7 (c) of the Penal law.
At the same time, traditional leaders called on the government and partners to provide funding and logistical support for full implementation of the national inventory and monitoring of full adherence to the suspension.
In his response shortly after the reading of the resolution, Minister Sirleaf said he appreciated the traditional leaders for the decision, which he said is intended to promote the positive image of the Liberian tradition, committing the government to improve the system.
Chief Zanzan Karwor re-emphasized the need to support the process of the inventory so as to identify the number of groves and their locations throughout the country.
Gender Minister Saydee-Tarr described the suspension as “momentous occasion, especially as the government and partners find a way to end harmful traditional practices.”
Representatives of the UN Women, Sweden and EU welcomed the suspension, saying it is the beginning of efforts leading to attainment of global vision 2030, which among other things that call for eliminating harmful traditional practices.