by Felix Sesay
The spotlight moments shared at the September 10, 2015 reunion dance for the Annie Walsh Old Girls Association (AWOGA) Washington DC Metropolitan Branch at their annual dinner and dance in Lanham, Maryland, in the United States of America, runs deep into Halloween and hopefully to Thanksgiving and to the very end of the year 2015.
That is because the Guest Speaker at the event, herself an alumni of the Sierra Leone’s oldest and inarguably most prestigious elite high school for girls, is named by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) as one of the 205 persons nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2015!
Guests at the well-attended dinner and dance were delighted for the presence of Dr Zainab Hawa Bangura, who is for now the most highly positioned Sierra Leonean woman in the world and the reason being that she is the first and only Sierra Leonean woman elevated to this position. Other Sierra Leonean UN Under –Secretary Generals were, Dr Davidson Nicol, Dr James Jonah, and Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella. The dance itself was well organized and the socialization of old girls was no doubt remarkable.
While winding the clock back to the reunion dinner and dance is somewhat implausible, the moments captured at that event can no doubt be documented for posterity sake. Those who were lucky to take snap shots with the versatile lady, have more reasons to frame and keep for posterity sake. Dr Zainab Bangura falls within the category of celebrity not just to Sierra Leoneans but Africans all over the Diaspora. Some may say that she surpasses our admired politicians, sports heroes, entertainment celebrities, religious icons, scholarly personalities or what have you.
It surely did not come as a surprise that the much respected PRIO should nominate one of our home grown sisters of the soil of Sierra Leone, who has done her country proud ever since she took the driver’s seat in her campaign efforts to right the wrongs of our society, commit the omissions and omit the commissions that were misplaced therein.
Dr Zainab H. Bangura was guest speaker at the dance and was able to reunite with some of her former classmates in her lower and upper sixth form days at the Anne Walsh Memorial School for girls. In her address, the well-spoken Bangura praised AWOGA for not turning its back from the school that nurtured their academic capabilities that has brought them to where they were today. She said, “The friends I made in Anne Walsh journeyed with me at Fourah Bay College and we are friends to this day.”
The elevation of an AWOGA member to a position of global prominence in her current capacity as United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict did not come as surprise to those of us, who watched the genesis of her participation into National politics.
At a time when Sierra Leone’s democracy was on life support, Dr Bangura took the stoicism of becoming coordinator and co-founder of Sierra Leonean Civil Society NGO Campaign for Good Governance (CGG). Dr Zainab Hawa Bangura’s participation and activism on the ground level, where she tackled real life situation and events that addressed sexual violence and gender issues make her a paramount leader to undertake her current United Nation’s position.
The compatriot, herself a wife and mother, has lived the life that she is currently pursuing; she has bore witness to several human injustices that she is currently trying to change. She has lived through rough times like most Sierra Leoneans who witnessed or survived the rebel war and its consequences, and owns her own experiences of the injustices committed and now, she is utilizing her vast experience to bring forth changes to the world, for the best interest of her gender; womankind.
It also did not come as a surprise that, the Peace Research Institute Oslo, (PRIO) spotted the 56 years old Bangura, to share a spot with co-nominee Denis Mukwege, for the 2015 prize.
In a Tête-à-Tête with this writer in Maryland, Dr Bangura said of her nomination, “ I had no idea I have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize until a Japanese Journalist approached me, asking me to give him a list of names of people who know me.’’
It could be recalled that in recognition of her contribution toward upholding human rights and embracing women’s empowerment, Dr Zainabu Hawa Bangura was also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree from one of UK’s most prestigious Universities in Oxford- Oxford Brookes University.