15 October 2011

Young Women's Network

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.

In Sierra Leone, 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.

“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. Dixon 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.”

She recommended everyone to support our ‘women folk’ in development, support girl child education, be God-fearing, be time conscious and avoid petty jealousy.

After a long day of learning the participants where given time to rest their minds but prepare their feet for the dance number. The Young Women’s Network, all wearing matching Africana dresses, paraded into the church and concluded the workshop by singing “Women are special, we are nice, we are great. The strength of a woman will develop and build a whole nation. The success of everything in this world depends on women”, our dance group leader felt moved and like Queen Latifah rewrote the song as we sang it. Caught me off guard and made me look confused but dancing to promote women’s empowerment is well worth the embarrassment


Anonymous said...

If we could have only been there to participate! What an important message! Keep on being the encourager-the advocate for change!
Mom & Dad

Anonymous said...

Hello Ali,

I enjoy reading your blog. Sounds like you are accomplishing a lot of what you want over there. That's great. Take care!

Shellie D

McKenzi said...

Great work you are doing... I'd love to see those dancing skills. :)

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your blog and great accomplishments in SL. Keep up the good work always. Yes, would like to see your dance moves too.
Aunt Bee & John

Anonymous said...

WOW! It is so fun to hear of your many experiences. Every day is an adventure and meaningful. I'm inspired at your openness and willing to learn and lead. We love you and miss you...always close to our hearts.
Verlainne :)
(I plan on you teaching PRAISE some new dance steps when you come home)