Sierra Leone Tackling Violence Against Girls

Lifeline Energy is delighted that Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, is drawing attention to the situation of girls suffering sexual abuse and violence in Sierra Leone. On a trip to the country, she visited several schools participating in the Leh Wi Lan (Let us Learn) initiative, which includes interactive audio lessons for adolescent girls and boys loaded onto our Lifeplayer units.

The state of girls in Sierra Leone

President Julius Maada Bio has declared rape and the state of girls as a national emergency. In response, the First Lady, Fatima Bio, launched the “Hands off our Girls” campaign to protect girls from sexual abuse, early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

On a visit to Sierra Leone, we noticed dozens of these billboards across the country. Sierra Leone has some of the world’s highest rates of early marriage and teen pregnancy. According to a Demographic and Health Survey, 13% of girls are married by age of 15 and 39% before their 18th birthday.

Teenage pregnancy dramatically alters a girl’s chances in life in many ways. Until recently, girls were even forced to drop out of school once they became pregnant. Further, the World Health Organisation reports that teen pregnancy is a leading cause of death for mothers in Sierra Leone, with the maternal mortality rate at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Leh Wi Lan and the Lifeplayer

With support from the British government, Leh Wi Lan is an audio life skills series aimed at adolescent girls and boys through after-school clubs. Ideally, these clubs ideally should have no more than 20 girls and boys each with two students facilitating, along with a teacher. The aims of the clubs are to:

1. To provide girls and boys a deeper understanding of topics that affect their learning and well-being such as violence, discrimination based on gender and disability and sexual reproductive health.
2. To enhance girls’ and boys’ confidence surrounding these topics, with a focus on preventing, responding to and reporting incidences of physical, psychological or sexual violence that they may see or experience.
3. To be something that girls and boys look forward to participating in – the clubs should be fun, interesting and inspiring. There are songs, chats and dialogue exercises to participate it.

The audio sessions were factory-loaded onto the Lifeplayer, last for 40 minutes and are hosted by dynamic, ethusiastic female and male presenters. Each session opens with lively music, a welcome, a setting out of the ground rules for students and an introduction of the topic.

The Lifeplayer was selected because very few of Sierra Leone’s schools have electricity and the country still has a highly “radio-active’ culture. Our CEO, Kristine Pearson, travelled to Sierra Leone to conduct training sessions with district education officers, who, in turn, trained principals in the use and care of the Lifeplayer units. “I was so impressed with the interest the education officials had in the Leh Wi Lan content and how enthusiastic they were about the Lifeplayers,” Kristine remarked.

sessions with district education officers in Sierra Leone
 Session with district education officers in Sierra Leone

Lifeline Energy is proud to be associated with Leh Wi Lan, a much-needed and wanted initiative. With the Countess of Wessex also taking an interest, it can only help shine a light on the issues impacting girls.

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