15 October 2011
“The foolish one are those who cannot live life the way it is lived by all around them. Those who stand by the flowing river and disapprove of the current. There is no other way and the refusal to take the leap will help absolutely no one at any time.” –Ayi Kwei Armah The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born.
Everyone knows I don’t especially excel at the performing arts. So when my friend Abie approached me to say that I would be singing and dancing in front of the entire congregation or a.k.a most of Moyamba at church on the upcoming Sunday; I felt paralyzed. Even though my voice was off pitch and my body was moving in a way that most Africans couldn’t understand what I was doing, it was all for a good cause.
The Young Women’s Network held a one day sensitization for, you guessed it, young women. These young women came from surrounding towns and villages. The workshop focused on Women in Health, Women in Education and Women in Decision Making.
The small group of girls, each dressed from head to toe in unique brightly patterned Africana dresses, sang and clapped as the first presenter took her place. A stout, Sierra Leonean woman, with a big voice and energized with Mende chants, Sister Agness Ngelay came in front of the group to discuss challenges and importance of being a healthy woman both physically and mentally.
“To become healthy women should always have a noble character and always be a unique role model,” said Sister Agness.
She went on to discuss what complete health is, how poverty affects women’s well-being, teen pregnancy, STDS and HIV/AIDS. Her discussion was laced with clapping, dancing and memorable tunes. She wanted all the girls to become change agents in their communities and know that each one was unique.
Finishing the discussion on health, the stage was set for one of my Sierra Leonean mothers. Rev. Alice Mammah is a formidable, quiet and intellect woman who has dedicated her life to education whether as a Harford teacher or as a mother to her larger family; a perfect choice to sit down and talk with these impressionable youth about staying in school.
“When you educate a woman, you educate a family, a community and a nation,” she began and continued by empowering girls to further there education even when there are obstacles.
, those obstacles are many and Rev. Mammah went on to discuss the cultural and economic factors keeping girls from the classroom, the lack of educational infrastructure, fears of sexual harassment, child exploitation, suppression of voice and how ethnicity all play into the surmounting and growing challenging of getting girls educated. Sierra Leone
“It’s very necessary for girls to be educated for they can help to develop any society and bridge the gap of gender inequality,” said Rev. Mammah.
She concluded with encouraging all the participants to encourage their communities to empower girls around them physically, economically, spiritually, and intellectually.
Reinforcing Rev. Mammah, fellow pastor and teacher, Mrs. Christiana Dixon with her candid voice and vibrant personality, talked with the girls about making well rounded decisions and supporting each other.
“They say that women don’t have a voice but women can be powerful instruments of development,” said Mrs. Dixon.
She went on to discuss the discrimination of Sierra Leonean women in the home, office and community.
said, “It is not right because of the following reasons; we [women] are the first teachers. We have patience. We have competence. We have carefulness.” Dixon
She recommended everyone to support our ‘women folk’ in development, support girl child education, be God-fearing, be time conscious and avoid petty jealousy.