March 8 the world over has been for a time now designated as International Women’s Day by a general promulgation of the United Nations. This is a day set aside to reflect on the contribution of women to development and the advancement of their communities. The history of this need for reflection on the role of women in society can be traced back to the aftermath of the Suffragettes battle for the vote, the fight for liberty and women’s liberation and the long struggle for equality in the workplace and other spheres of life. the history of these battles are now long held as myths considering the relative acceptance nowadays that women have an integral part to play in our communities.
To many people, such marking of international events are an opportunity to be part of a crowd, to be seen to belong and otherwise demonstrate that they are apprised of world events. Given the significance of this day however, it is a case in thought as to whether women in developing countries like Sierra Leone pay any serious heed to the international import of the celebrations and as such do they make any conscious efforts to localize the event?
It is times like these that women in Sierra Leone appreciate their First Lady the most. Her Excellency, Madam Sia Nyama Koroma comes to her own on such occasions because she brings profile and majesty to the celebrations. A woman of substance in her own right, she would be apt to underpin the impact of such a celebration of womanhood by her usual tendency to establish a relevance of such a day with the less privileged and often excluded members of society. Her understanding of the central issues facing women in development is expansive, her acceptance that the outcomes for women in Sierra Leone must be made more positive especially in health choices and life chance events such as childbirth is also commendable. Her persona exudes the lowly encouragement of the masses while at the same time exacerbate the sophistication of the more learned of our womenfolk. In her skillful but unnerving way, she would grace any event on this day with the poise of the consort to the Head of State but her gait would always indicate to the low classes that their needs and aspirations are not lost in her thoughts. so in salute to women generally in Sierra Leone and in particular to the one revered the most for her consciousness and appreciation of all that is required to make the women of Sierra Leone more amenable to effecting change in their circumstances for the better, I doff my hat, on this International Women’s Day.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s day is “Inspiring Change.” It is not too difficult to accept that women stand a very good chance to inspire change within their Communities across the World. In Rwanda, a country that shared a brutal and internecine civil war unmatched save only in its brutality to that which occurred in Sierra Leone, they have managed to transform their society to a modern upcoming country, now more aware of the conflagration that engulfed their country and on that resolve, managed to subsequently elect a Parliament with a female majority. That is a feat unequalled anywhere in the World. As a result of the common understanding and acceptance that the war that split families down the middle came about as a result of the decisions and policies spearheaded by men. The women taking control is an indication therefore that the community is determined never to allow their country to degenerate to such wanton brutality ever again. There is also evidence that Kigali is the cleanest city in Africa. Her streets are devoid of litter because of the consciousness of its people for sustainable environmental policies, the use of plastic bags and containers are invariably banned and with that goes the unhealthy sanitation and environmental disaster that these non degradable substances cause to marine life and to the general state of sanitation in areas of dense populations. On the basis of these achievements, one could safely arrive at the conclusion that women have been inspiring change in Rwanda for some time now and that has been the case for most of Africa.
Sierra Leone is also not bereft of supine incidences of women inspiring change. Madam Ella Koblo Gulama, Madam Honoria Bailor–Caulker, Nancy Steele, June Holst-Roness and R A Dillsworth, are examples of women who have left their mark on the history of this country. The more contemporary examples would draw in First Lady, Sia Nyama Koroma, the Chief Justice, the Auditor General and even if some would say surreptitiously, Christiana Thorpe, a woman who supervised three general elections accepted widely by the international community as free and fair elections on the whole, one of such elections delivering a change in political dispensation established amongst the people of this country as well as the international community, a firm test of Sierra Leone’s democratic credentials.
Indeed, women in Sierra Leone do have the capacity to inspire and effect change. The challenge is for them to be focused on the changes that would bring more benefit to more people rather than to uplift he status of the few, privileged and connected. Women who want to inspire change must in themselves be inspirers of a good work ethic, dedicated to development and exercise that lowly accommodation that would send a strong signal to the less privileged that they themselves are included in the fight for equality and gender parity.
it is significant that the agenda for prosperity lays appropriate emphasis on the emancipation of women in this country, accords for the issues facing gender advancement are paramount within its precepts and establishes a pillar on that agenda for gender issues to be mainstreamed in all aspects of policy design and implementation. this is mot just lip service but a culmination of years of lobbying and fight by women of substance to put their issues of gender equality and the raising of the standard of living for Sierra Leonean women a priority. Where our laws delimit women to the point of disenfranchisement, it is expected that women should campaign to bring such anomalies to the fore so that such issues can be dealt with in a robust manner. opportunities abound for such to happen. The suite of gender laws are a case in point but the rights and obligations contained therein need to be externalized so that women everywhere are aware of their significance and import. women who have the knowledge should inspire such change. Let the women of Sierra Leone unite inspire change for the benefit of our communities.