Category Archives: GIRLS

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Domestic Violence Poses Grave Dangers to Women in Sierra Leone

This gallery contains 8 photos.

One of the most common questions people ask of women who endure domestic violence, is “why do they stay with their abusive husbands or partners? Two recent cases in Sierra Leone provide answers to this question. One woman is dead … Continue reading

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MISS SIERRA LEONE 2018: IN DEFENCE OF OUR CONTESTING GIRLS

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Watching the video of the “Questions and Answers” portion of the recent Miss Sierra Leone 2018 beauty pageant was so painful, I had to watch it in small doses. Because of the love in my heart for each and every … Continue reading

A ROAR FOR WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE PUSH FOR CHANGE IN SALONE

Why are women in Sierra Leone not making any gains in political appointments or otherwise, in the New Direction administration of President Bio?

Sure, it’s been less than 100 days since President Bio was sworn in. Sure we need to give the guy a little bit of time to settle in and put his strategies in place. Sure these are the lame excuses the president’s supporters throw at you whenever you mention how little he has done for women so far.

As a popular Sierra Leonean proverb goes, “When you have been burnt by fire, you run when you see smoke.” Leaders in Sierra Leone have made empty promises to women far too long, we do not need 100 days to recognize empty promises that are not followed by immediate meaningful actions.

In less than 100 days, President Bio has demonstrated his ability to pave the way for his New Direction when it comes to issues and people that are relevant to him and his cabal. Of course, we have seen how he has wasted no time in appointing people that are close to him personally and politically. We have also seen how quick he is to take action when he cares to do so. A glaring example has been the recent sacking of the chief of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) who was appointed by his predecessor, Ernest Koroma.

Mr. Bio (right) and his predecessor Mr. Koroma

We have witnessed how quickly Mr. Bio replaced the ACC chief with his own choice, which was quickly followed by indictments of corrupt officials from the previous administration. All these actions were taken before the President attended the 31st Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit, where he acted as Chair of the Peace and Security Council.

These actions were important for Mr. Bio’s attendance, given the theme of the 2018 AU Summit, Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation. In his speech at the summit, Mr. Bio admonished his colleagues, “Our words should be translated into action…” This former soldier knows what it means to translate words into action.

As far as we know, President Bio and his entourage, which was majority men, stared clear of the Joint AU-EU Women in Power Event at the 31st AU summit, which addressed “…the need to empower women politically as well as economically and to tackle gender-based violence and gender-specific health questions on a high-level panel.”

Of course, our all-male leaders did not travel all that distance to talk about women’s issues, which is not a priority on their New Direction agenda. During their attendance and since their return, the men have been praised in the media  for their speeches and their messages on corruption.

Sierra Leone Delegation at 2015 AU Summit

WHAT A DIFFERENCE REGIME CHANGE MAKES FOR WOMEN IN SIERRA LEONE!

As in the 2015 AU Summit delegation from Sierra Leone (above photo), there was one woman in the 2018 Sierra Leone delegation, but nothing has been heard from her or about her role at the summit.

Sierra Leone Delegation at 2018 AU Summit

So why has President Bio not put into action promises he made to women in his campaign and the manifesto for his New Direction?

Simple answer: Because Sierra Leone women are not Pushing for change as a collective!

The majority of women in the world who give birth do so through natural childbirth. And all women who have lived through the ordeal know that they could not have survived or saved their babies’ lives had they not PUSHED. It is how women have achieved any substantive change in societies in the West, and anywhere in the world where women have gained any significant progress in society.

Sierra Leonean women are experts at “pushing,” both in childbirth and for social issues. In a country with the most deplorable healthcare for pregnant women, it is by God’s Grace and women’s capacities to push their babies out of their wombs skillfully that is saving most women’s lives, and helping maintain the population of this nation.

Until international donors started doling money out to NGOs, in support of their hidden agenda to dismantle Sande/Bondo society, grassroots women had been well organized, with a grip on women’s collective “push” for social issues in their communities and our society.

In this “modern” NGO-intense era, however, it is ritzier for individual women to claim their sole championship of girls’ and women’s causes in the country, in order to gain favors with donors. The personal benefits of these individual championships, which are favored by international donors, are encouraging women to work individually and to compete with one another. This competition among women for NGO funding, and other personal gains, is causing women’s coalitions in Sierra Leone to die away.

Of course, the women’s wings of political parties exist to promote only what the men put on their agenda. They seldom join forces with other women on women’s causes; their advocacy for women, if any, is mostly limited to individual women within their parties or to promoted their parties’ agenda.

Even the current First Lady is banking on this culture of fragmentation among women by creating a separate group, the Julius Maada Bio Women’s Wing, within the women’s wing of her husband’s political party. This sort of fragmentation is pervasive among women throughout the country and in the diaspora.

First Lady Fatima Bio (Left) and actress Mercy Johnson (Right)

After recent newspaper reports that the President of Sierra Leone had hired his wife’s friend, Mercy Johnson, an actress from the Nigerian movie industry, to champion girls’ education and empowerment in Sierra Leone, there were a number of individual protests, including write-ups, audios, and video messages.

Unfortunately, these protest messages were mainly campaigns on behalf of individual Sierra Leonean women, being promoted as the “experts” who should be have been hired by the President to champion girls and women’s issues in the country, instead of bringing in a foreigner. There is yet to be a collective of women to challenge the President on his choice of a national advocate for girls.

The appointment of Ms. Johnson could be a wonderful opportunity for Sierra Leonean women to unite and speak in one voice, as we should all be disgusted at the President’s belittling of Sierra Leonean women’s capabilities, efforts and sacrifices over many years of promoting girls education and women’s empowerment.

And because the oppositions to the president’s appointment of Ms. Johnson have been fragmented and individualized, he and the first lady, who is believed to be behind Ms. Johnson’s appointment, have felt no push or pressure from Sierra Leonean women to retract their action.

The dangers of the president appointing a foreigner are numerous for girls’ education and the general empowerment of women in Sierra Leone. Only we the women of Sierra Leone, not the First Lady or any foreign woman, could impart this truth on the president; but he is not going to hear us when we speak in fragmented voices, only our collective voice will get through to him.

 

The main and most critical point here is that Sierra Leonean political leaders are unapologetic and unashamed misogynists. Regrettably though, women who tend to find more ways of disintegrating than ways of forming a formidable united front, are helping these leaders who have no interest or political will to empower women in Sierra Leone.

Until Sierra Leonean women everywhere start coming together as one, across tribal, regional, political and class lines, to agitate our misogynist leaders for change, there will be no socioeconomic or political progress for women in Mr. Bio’s New Direction nor in any subsequent administration in Sierra Leone.

It is time for Sierra Leonean women to decide: Either PUSH as a COLLECTIVE for REAL change or continue our individual championship bid, which maintains the current deplorable condition for women in Sierra Leone, regime after regime, after regime!

#SierraLeoneWomenCollective
#WeForSheSierraLeone
#CollectivePush4SaloneWomen

OPEN LETTER TO FIRST LADY OF SIERRA LEONE: GIRLS & WOMEN NEED A COMPASSIONATE FIRST LADY

By Fatima Babih

Dear First Lady Fatima Bio:

Congratulations on your husband’s victory at the 2018 elections in Sierra Leone!

I write this letter on behalf of the majority of women and girls in Sierra Leone, who are illiterate, living in abject poverty and are in dire need of a Compassionate First Lady; one who is willing and able to put aside personal ambition and fame to genuinely contribute to women’s struggle for socioeconomic, civil and political change in our beloved country.

First Lady of Sierra Leone Fatima Bio

First Lady of Sierra Leone Fatima Bio

As First Lady in a country where women are grossly disadvantaged and conditioned to seek redemption through men, you are automatically a role model; in an influential position to either perpetuate this caustic societal norm or contribute to making changes that would put women on a progressive trajectory.

I would, therefore, implore you to carefully choose how you proceed in performing your role as First Lady. As you navigate the limelight, please keep in mind the predicament of girls in Sierra Leone whose future rests on the shoulders of the generation of women before them.

Being the 5th First Lady in less than 50 years, a role that started with the wife of Siaka Stevens when her husband became the first president of Sierra Leone, your position has a relatively short history and practically no template for how to perform your role. Other than perceiving them as distant celebrities, the Sierra Leone public has generally not been privy to the work or activities of their First Ladies. There is no national narrative about how Rebecca Stevens, Hannah Momoh, Patricia Kabba and Sia Koroma performed their roles, nor is the role of the First Lady known to be a great source of respite for girl’s and women’s issues in our nation.

Former First Lady Sia Koroma

Former First Lady of S. Leone Sia Koroma

In her decade long tenure, your immediate predecessor, First Lady Sia Koroma, who was the first to come into her role in the era of the internet and social media, the public got to learn a little about her activities through her website and social media postings. Even so, little was known about Mrs. Koroma’s “initiates” and activities beyond Freetown.  Therefore, your predecessors have not set a trend for how the first lady’s role should be performed.

Is the lack of a model for the First Lady’s role in Sierra Leone a hurdle or opportunity for you to make meaningful contributions to women’s struggles? The answer to this question depends on which of two pathways you choose to proceed as Sierra Leone’s current First Lady: Famous First Lady or Compassionate First Lady.

Famous First Lady

A Famous First Lady is an ambitious woman who views her First Lady position as a performing stage for personal celebrity, as well as a pathway to achieving fame, fortune and political gains for herself and her husband. Should you choose to proceed as the Famous First Lady, your chances of contributing meaningfully to women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone will be diminished.

On the path of being a Famous First Lady, you will focus more on what makes you feel celebrated than what benefits women and girls; your face will be on television, newspaper front pages and your voice will be heard on the radio every day, claiming to champion the issue of the day.  You will endeavor to set the agenda for women’s development while using girls and women as pawns to gain favors with donors, the media, and the international community. Thereby diverting attention and resources from real gender issues, as well as draining vital donor funds that could help sustain legitimate organizations and institutions that have been working in the interest of girls and women for decades in Sierra Leone.

Furthermore, should you proceed on the path of the Famous First Lady, you will self-appoint as the sole arbiter of women’s agenda in your husband’s political party as well as the country. Given your closeness to political power through your husband, and our country’s dependence on donor funds for social programs, you stand to have a huge portion of resources in your control for girls and women.

Given such resource control, a Famous First Lady would be inclined to commandeer and spearhead gender empowerment activities that could be better managed by passionate and seasoned women’s empowerment organizations in Sierra Leone. Commandeering gender movements by a Famous First Lady jeopardizes decades-long struggles to foster sustainable paths to women’s advancement in our highly patriarchal society.

A Famous First Lady, therefore, is a false messiah that grassroots women would look up to as a savior. With a false messiah championing women’s agenda, there will be fragmentation among women and repression of women’s chances for progress in all areas of our society.

In this era of social media, choosing to take center stage and full control of programs and vital resources as a Famous First Lady would lead to disrepute for you worldwide, which would place you on the list of Famous First Ladies around Africa, who have historically strangled women’s empowerment by usurping vital resources for their personal ambitions and husbands’ party politics, at the expense and detriment of girls and women in their countries.

The Flashy Famous First Lady of Cameroon, Chantal Biya

The Flashy Famous First Lady of Cameroon, Chantal Biya

Former Famous First Ladies such as Mrs. Grace Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mrs. Nana Rawlings of Ghana, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo of Nigeria, Mrs. Vera Chiluba of Zambia (the list could go on), have left nothing behind but their legacy of draining needed resources to promote their own fame and fortunes. These Famous First Ladies are not good role models for the First Lady of Sierra Leone to emulate, because women and girls in Sierra Leone are in such deplorable condition, we simply cannot afford or withstand a Famous First Lady.

Compassionate First Lady

The better option, in my view, is for you to proceed in performing your role as the Compassionate First Lady; a woman who understands the plights of girls and women in Sierra Leone and is ready and willing to contribute to making positive changes.

A Compassionate First Lady will not be focused on the glamour and celebrity of being First Lady, but strives for real results by lending vital support to strengthen organizations and institutions that are working to engender change in the lives of girls and women in Sierra Leone.

Should you choose the path of the Compassionate First Lady, you will have a great chance to develop positive synergy with existing women’s movements for advancement in our society and be a more effective First Lady for your husband’s administration and his political career.

President & First Lady of Sierra Leone

President & First Lady of Sierra Leone

Being a Compassionate First Lady, you would recognize that the political power and prestige you have today was granted first by the Almighty, and by virtue of you being the wife of the president of our beloved nation. As such, you are in a transient position of trust and must be a willing partner of gender empowerment institutions and organizations, through which you could contribute more sustainably to women’s struggle for advancement in Sierra Leone.

In a grossly patriarchal society, such as Sierra Leone, women are mainly able to gain political power and leadership through the favors of the male power brokers, which is why women’s self-sufficiency is not valued nor promoted in our society. Instead of aspiring for leadership, girls in Sierra Leone are conditioned to aspire to become wives or mistresses of men of means or power. But this social paradigm must shift in order for women to realize any significant advancement in Sierra Leone.

Though transient, your position as First Lady provides a window of opportunity to contribute to this needed change in our society; by performing your role judiciously, not just for self-promotion, but in genuine support of girls and women’s progress in our society, you will triumph as a Compassionate First Lady.

Whether your position impacts the lives of girls, women and all in our society positively or negatively would be determined by your choice to proceed either as the Famous First Lady or the Compassionate First Lady.

May the Almighty guide you in your role & bless women’s struggle in Sierra Leone!

 

 

57 YEARS OF POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE: 57 YEARS OF SOCIOECONOMIC DEPENDANCE

Today, April 27, 2018, is the 57th Anniversary of Sierra Leone’s political Independence. I pray for the Almighty’s mercy on our small nation, which is rich in natural and mineral resources, yet one of the poorest in the world. I also pray that the Almighty forgive us, as a people, whose shortcomings keep us in the dire socioeconomic bondage that is wrecking havoc on the most vulnerable among us.

Photo credit: The Sierra Leone Telegraph

This is not ‘Happy Independence.’ I know some might disagree with me, I respect that, but I believe it is foolhardy to celebrate an anniversary for which we have nothing to show; this is the bitter pill we must ingest, just as we swallowed quinine to cure our malaria in those days when we were children.

  • It is not ”Happy Independence” when, half the population is food insecure, which means over 3 million people do not have sufficient food to eat in Sierra Leone (World food program, 2016).

  • It is not “Happy Independence” when the majority of women in our nation is illiterate and our nation has been labeled the worst place to be a pregnant woman due to the high maternal mortality rate.
Photo credit: Amnesty International

Photo credit: Amnesty International

  • It is not “Happy Independence” when a high number of adolescent girls are dropping out of junior secondary school due to pregnancy, never to return
  • It is not a “Happy Independence” when the majority of the youth are under-educated, unemployed and out of school
  • It is not “Happy Independence” when a good number of our citizens are dying from curable and preventable illnesses, including children and the youth, because we lack the most basic healthcare

This is not the time to celebrate “Independence” when our nation is so heavily dependent on donors for our most basic needs, especially donor aid that come with strings attached.

On this 57th Independence Anniversary, we as a people must do some serious soul-searching. A country does not fall into such decay without the thoughts, actions, and behaviors of its citizens. We must reflect on our role in what has led to our nation being in such a deplorable state.

We can blame the leaders all we want, but that does not change the fact that we the people are a major contributor.

As we gradually inch our way to the next independent anniversary, we need to reflect on what choices we are going to make to be sure positive change is actualized for the next generation.

Please watch the video below, a poignant message from a man who understands his Naga society, a society with which ours has similarities.

What kind of person are you in Salone society?

Are you the,

  • Idiot?
  • Tribesman/tribeswoman? or
  • Ideal Citizen?

please leave a comment below!

An Open Letter to Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio: Our Nation is a Half-Baked Cake Without Women’s Contribution

Contributed by Fatima (Wahab) Babih

Photo credit: nairaland.com

Congratulations Your Excellency, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, on becoming president of the Republic of Sierra Leone!

Mama Salone Blog wishes to express our utmost respect for you and sincere support of your leadership. May the Almighty bless our nation with abundant Peace. May He guide and protect you every step of the way. And May He guide your leadership decisions as you rule our beloved country in the next five years or beyond!!

Mama Salone Blog may not be on the band wagon with many of our compatriots whose way of showing patriotism is by glorifying you, before you even get the chance to tackle the smallest of our national issues. Rest assured, however, that Mama Salone Blog will commend you whenever your performance deserves it.

Mr. President, as the election dust settles, and the reality of governing a nation with dire challenges sets in, we hereby take this opportunity to call your attention to girls’ and women’s issues in our beloved country.

Mr. President, as you well know, a little over half of our country’s population is female (51%). But majority (63%) of this better half of the nation is illiterate and absent in the non-agricultural labor force and national governance.

This means that you have inherited a nation in which a huge percentage of its vital human capital is unable to contribute meaningfully to the development of our nation.

You are also no stranger to the fact that women in our country are perishing every day in the performance of the most natural of their human function in society, childbirth.

Our maternal mortality rate is so high (1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births) that our country has been labeled by international media as the worst place in the world to be a pregnant woman.

You are also aware, Mr. President, that the majority of our girls (over 60%) do not complete senior secondary school, that a high number of our adolescent girls (68%) succumb to early pregnancy, and that a high number of pregnant adolescent girls are dying in childbirth (40% of maternal deaths in the country).

To make matters worst, a huge number of our girls (52%) are married before the age of 18.

From the perspective of Mama Salone Blog, these problems are tantamount to national crisis, no less devastating to the nation than disease outbreaks and natural disasters.

Mr. President, would you eat a half-baked cake?

 

Given its current deplorable condition, if our country were a cake, Mr. President, it would be a half-baked cake because of the incapacity of women to fully partake in its development, due to the systemic gender discrimination in our society.

As we are sure you would not eat a half-baked cake, so is our assurance that there could never be true socioeconomic progress for Sierra Leone, until girls and women attain equal opportunity to develop their capacity and fully contribute in nation-building.

In Mama Salone Blog’s view, the gravest crime committed by your predecessors, (both APC & SLPP administrations), is their neglect of issues affecting girls and women in our country.

Your predecessors failed girls and women woefully; they did not treat women’s issues as national priorities. Instead, your predecessors paid lip service by enacting toothless laws and policy instruments that were never effected. At the end of the day, your predecessors left women and girls in worse conditions than they found them.

As you can see Mr. President, the majority of girls and women in our country have endured a dreadful existence for decades, due to actions and inaction of your predecessors.

But make no mistakes, Mr. President, our Salone women are some of the most intelligent, resourceful, capable and resilient human beings you could ever find anywhere in the world. With beauty and grace to boost!

We are quite sure you will agree with us, especially since you know very well that you could not have won this election without the massive effort of women. Even though the surface of your campaign was male dominated, we all know that women were the grassroots foot soldiers that maintained the lifeline of your campaign. Not even illiteracy could stand in their way.

Mr. President, girls and women are not asking for charity or handout from you or anyone else. All they need from you is to level the playing field, by empowering them through education, healthcare and equal chances in national governance.

Mr. President, it is a moral imperative for you to shift the paradigm for women in Sierra Leone, so that our national cake could be fully baked for all to enjoy.

We believe in the honor system; therefore, Mr. President, we are putting our trust in your words, as expressed during your campaign and in your Manifesto (New Direction). We know that you have the ability to right many of the wrongs your processors inflicted on girls and women in our country. We have faith in your willingness to make good on your promise to take, not only the nation, but the trajectory of girls and women of Sierra Leone in a “New Direction.”

On this note, Mr. President, Mama Salone Blog will, henceforth, pay close attention to your decisions, actions, inaction, and general treatment of socioeconomic, civil, political, and other relevant issues pertaining to the welfare and empowerment of girls and women in the Land That We Love.

Once more, Congratulations president bio!

May the Almighty guide you and

may he bless Sierra Leone!!

 

References

Maternal deaths in Sierra Leone

Girls out of school in Sierra Leone 

Gallery

Salone Cabinet Ministers: Are they STAKEHOLDERS or STICK-HOLDERS?

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In a recent post on social media, one group of Sierra Leoneans who had scheduled a meeting for dialogue on social issues were criticized for inviting cabinet ministers and other unelected officials. Some of the ministers invited were widely viewed … Continue reading