There has been a lot of debate about the Bondo/ Sande Society in recent times. Everyone seems to have an opinion the; circumcised, uncircumcised, and our men too. Some say its a tradition and should not be abandon. Others say it’s barbaric we should get rid of it. Some say we are only claiming its barbaric because the west says so. Others have religious views as to why the Bondo initiation rite is not good. Amongst women there is a divide also; between those, you have gone through the process and are defending it because they have no side effect or complications. Those who are circumcised and they hate it, because, they had suffered so many complications even through childbirth. Those who are circumcised with no side effect but hate it anyway. Those who have not gone through it but hated it, because the secret has long left the “Bondo Secret Society” now It is just bondo, they are aware of everything about the Bondo society and they don’t want to be part of it.
From my personal experience, I went to the Sande society at age eleven. We did not go into any bush. We were taking so someplace at Mends Street a Compound own by one Haja. Of course, they said it was a Sunah Sande whatever that means I don’t even know. Before my initiation, I used to scratch my clitoris a lot. Then, it had an awful way of itching some times, not every time though. I was an innocent little girl and that’s the only memory I have of my dear Clitoris. On one faithful day, they took me to Mends street in the centre of Freetown. The room was filled with young confused, nervous, scared and fearful girls. You can tell by just looking at them. It was a waiting room. Where we were prepared, so they can slaughter our clitoris on the alter of an ancient tradition. I guess most of us knew the drill anyways but it’s was too late to run, hide or throw tantrums. When it was my turn I was blindfolded and helped into another room where I was stripped. The odour in the room was something else, some fishy, bloody stenched. I was laid on the floor, a giant woman then quickly came to the top of me and gagged me, while two other women just stretched my feet wide apart. You can hear the clinging of the unsterilized metal and then boom. The pain was so gruesome I actually thought someone just opened my chest and was trying to rip my heart out. I gave out the loudest scream even when gagged. No anaesthetic, nothing for the pain, just like that, an operation was done on me and I was wide awake. They took their leafy stuff and sealed the new wound. It seems as if a spice was added to those leaves, it burns like hell.
Some years down the line, I went to the hospital to give birth. According to the doctors, my cervix was not big enough and the baby descended quickly causing vagina tear. That means I needed to be stitched again to close the extra opening to prevent infection or further complications. Imagine the pain, after going through nine to ten hours of labour for a natural birth. It was excruciating, period.
Some might ask, why am I explaining this? Because many years after my circumcision I am still questioning if my initiation gave rise to my vagina tearing? If my clitoris were intact, would that have been my fate? If my clitoris was still here would It be still itching? How would it feel like? I would never know the answers to these questions.
Before trying to know these answers after ‘wey water don pass garri’. Can we just try to prevent this torture from our girls at least until they are eighteen? I know we all have different ways our body reacts or heal just as pregnancy is to every woman. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the Bondo process is very hurtful and painful. Why do we want to continue to put our girls through such pain just in the name of keeping a tradition? Apart from the pain, I learned nothing in that place except for a few songs. So let’s stop pretending, some people act as if that place teaches us how to cook or train us to perform important chores. Maybe they do, during our mother’s time, but now nothing like that occurs. Can’t they teach these soweis other skills to empower themselves, in other for them to get constant revenue source? In any case, bondo is mostly done during the long school holiday period in December or any convenient time for the Sowies. One cannot take care of oneself throughout the year just on revenue that comes in twice.
I know for a fact, with my experiences and all the things I have been through. I will protect my daughter until she is old enough to understand. I will tell her everything there is to know about the Bondo. If she still wants to go, after she turns eighteen it will be on her head and resources. Let give our girls the chance to live, to have choices, and options. It does not mean that because our mothers and grandmother went through it, so we should not question it. To what extent is Bondo helping us? Even if the big and long clitoris is the problem is there no other way it can be fixed? The itching is there no other way it can be stopped? As for using the promiscuity argument, I totally don’t get it. So this might be a topic for another day. Meanwhile, let us answer this honestly. Who has circumcision helped? (Udat bondo help?) The soweis, the girls or the communities? If e nor help anybody, then why are we holding on to it? Anyway till the next write up peace out#whocuthelp?#