Freetown School, Sierra Leone
Meet Local Hero Ann-Marie Caulker, a leading advocate against female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone. She is the founder and Executive Director of the National Movement for Emancipation and Progress, a coalition campaigning against harmful traditional practices like FGM. Ann-Marie became passionate about stopping FGM as an adult, because she was forced to undergo the brutal tradition at 6 years old.
Born to a polygamous father in Sierra Leone, her mother died when she was only two, and she was not treated well by her stepmothers. They insisted she submit to FGM and threatened her when she tried to run away. They eventually held her down and cut her. After this, Ann-Marie went to live with her grandmother as her father no longer wanted to care for her. When her grandmother died, Ann-Marie was forced to live on the streets and during this time, she was raped and became pregnant. Her son died shortly after birth. Despite her extreme struggles, there was a light within Ann-Marie and she completed her education, enrolled in college level courses and made sure her sister and brother stayed in school.
Today Ann-Marie dedicates her life to protecting young girls from having to suffer as she did. She started Freetown School to provide refuge to girls who were abandoned by their families for refusing to undergo FGM and for orphans whose mothers died in childbirth as a result of FGM. Because of the school’s stance on FGM, they receive no government support, but Ann-Marie is committed to ensuring that her students get an education and are protected from FGM. Read more about Ann-Marie and her project with GO below.