Call to end stigma and discrimination against pregnant girls in Sierra Leone

Freetown – 1October 2017. As non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Sierra Leone to advance the human rights of children, we call on the government of Sierra Leone to urgently review and address the discriminatory policies and practices that impede the full enjoyment of the right to education by pregnant girls across the country.

The access to and enjoyment of an education of quality is a fundamental human right, which is essential for the exercise of all other human rights. Yet, today in Sierra Leone, pregnant girls continue to be banned from attending regular schools due to the decision of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology that was pronounced in November 2015. This decision is in clear contradiction with the principle of the best interests of the child and therefore calls for immediate action by the Government of Sierra Leone.

During the 2014/2015 academic year, official records from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology suggested that 3, 000 were banned from regular school, but experts mapping the situation indicated that the true figure it over 10,000.  Because pregnant girls continued to be excluded from attending regular school in the 2016/2017 academic year, which will possibly continue in the 2017/2018 academic year, it is a huge problem that the government of Sierra Leone needs to address.

Pregnant  girls – regardless of their status – are first and foremost children that must fully enjoy their human rights, including the right to education. Banning them from attending the formal education system is a clear violation of their rights and never in their best interest.

We therefore urge the government of Sierra Leone to:

  1. Fulfil its international and regional obligations by expeditiously and completely lifting the ban on pregnant girls attending formal schools
  2. Make clear provisions in the education system for practices that support and protect pregnant girls within the formal education system, as well as in their communities against stigma and discrimination;
  3. Finally, we are also calling on the government of Sierra Leone to completely protect the rights of girls and young women against all forms of gender-based violence in schools and communities in Sierra Leone.

Signatories: Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone (DCI-SL); Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES),  Graceland Sierra Leone (GSL), and Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP).

To learn more about the programme, please contact DCI-Sierra Leone atinfo@dcisierraleone.org