EKG WINNING ESSAYS 2019

HOW DO YOU THINK WOMEN LIKE PC ELLA KOBLO GULAMA HAVE PAVED THE WAY FOR WOMEN IN SIERRA LEONE AND WHAT WOULD YOU TO CONTINUE IN HER LEGACY?

One cannot help but wonder why women, the stronger of the sexes, have been taken for granted since the beginning of time. The very gender upon which the foundation, development and continuity of humankind had sprung. How then, one might ask, did we become the inferior sex? If for centuries we have handled childbirth, nurturing, healing and care-giving with such grace; then, what exactly made us unfit to strive in other areas? This idea has been instilled in us for so long that even though we are doing our earnest to grasp of control, we realize that we still have a long way to go. The moment everyone realizes that women molded, nurtured and shaped great men in history, then we will see that our request for equality and respect is not too great a demand. However, women in modern times have been making tremendous progress in national development that we can proudly say that dawn is near. Every day, we see women in leading positions making great contributions towards sectors that society thought “a man could handle better”.

 In Sierra Leone, we cannot talk about women’s empowerment without mentioning pioneers and key contributors that lighted the torch to a path that once seemed impossible to tread on. One such person is Paramount Chief Ella Koblo Gulama. A pioneer woman, a pace setter, a daughter, a wife, a mother and history maker. Born in an era when Sierra Leone was still under colonial rule up to the time we gained independence, Madam Ella’s life serves as an example not only to Sierra Leonean women, but the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa, being the first female to be elected into parliament. She made history as an individual, a woman, thus proving to the world that women, if given an opportunity, can do it better. She helped us realize that there is more to life than child rearing and basic culinary skills. With education, determination and good grooming, the limit to what we can do only rests on our mindsets.

 Madam Ella, as she is fondly remembered, broke barriers in a lot of areas. When she got married to Chief Bai Koblo Pathbana II, she proved that irrespective of ethnicity and diversity in cultures, we are one and together we can do great things. By engaging in politics, she showed us that no career path is gender based and we can do whatever we put our mind to. In her pursuit for greatness, she inspired, motivated and empowered women to take bold steps towards the fore-front. Due to her hard work and relentless determination she made great contributions towards women empowerment and national development for which she was highly recognized and honored. Indeed, this great woman blazed a trail worthy of emulation and praise. It is good to know that her legacy in championing education and empowerment still lives on. Modern day women in Sierra Leone can now proudly continue in her path with their heads held high. “She led an exemplary life as a wife, a mother and stateswoman whose fortitude has earned her high respect” – Former President, Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabba.

  Great women, with different stories, have taught us that we can still make a change wherever we find ourselves. Women like the first lady, Her Excellency Madam Fatima Bio, whose relentless fight against the girl child abuse like rape, domestic abuse, to mention a few. Her Worship Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the first female mayor of Freetown, whose personality inspires, motivates and empowers young girls to dream. Madam Asmaa James, a journalist and selfless warrior in the fight against rape and abuse. The list is endless. These women in their various positions, recognized or not, continue to use their affluence to empower young girls and women, changing the narrative of society. I believe that every girl’s dream is to continue in their legacy. Not everyone would live a legend so one doesn’t have to wait until one is highly placed to help others. Even women like Madam Ella did not wait until they reached their peak of success to start giving back to society. Their contributions got greater as they climbed but they definitely started somewhere. I believe that starting as small as complimenting others, an encouraging smile, a good word can go a long way in boosting the confidence of females around us. We start with the women in our lives, giving them a listening ear and helping their voices to be heard. I want every woman to feel that her story matters, so my dream is to establish support groups in every community. These groups would be a safe-space for women to express themselves, voice out their concerns, knowing that they would not be judged or shamed. These support groups would be a one-stop centre for counseling, therapy and learning. Education, whether formal or informal is very important in the process of empowering people. Without education, it would have been impossible for women like PC Ella Koblo Gulama, to rise to such honor and respect. They would not have been able to help others. Madam Ella’s life was not all rosy, I got to discover; but despite all the challenges she regained control and got on just great till the time of her death. This tells us one thing loud and clear; the knowledge we gain through education, our career, would never wake up one day and decide to leave. As women and girls we must all accept that empowerment comes through learning thus education should be our main focus.

  Every year twelve million girls are married before the age of eighteen at a cost to their education, opportunities, health and safety. Sierra Leonean girls no doubt, are part of that number with many dropping out of school. Even though the literacy rate has gradually increased over the years, women are still a long way behind due to the many challenges they face. The illiteracy rate greatly out-weighs the former. The uneducated women are prone to more acts of abuse and violence. These women need to be enlightened about their rights and ways in which they can seek justice when faced with abuse, violence and rape. The heavy reliance on men have dwindled their self-esteem and confidence. Empowering these women is no easy task but nevertheless impossible. Teaching them skills will reduce their dependence on men who take advantage of their vulnerability. One such example is the Barefoot Women who have been equipped with technical skills to get income.

    Continuing in Madam Ella’s footsteps means reaching out to women in every corner, changing her story for good. There is an ever growing team of women doing their best to make a change, each of us doing the little or most we can. Sometimes it may seem hard and impossible, like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We must keep pushing like the women before us did. You never know who is watching and being inspired by what you are doing. I believe my contribution currently is just a drop in the ocean, it is a slow process but quitting will definitely not speed it up. The last thing to grow on a tree is the fruit. The women before us have fought the good fight and together we will win this battle for equality in all works of life. We are women and that’s our super power.

WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY: ARNOLDA A.E. JONES

3rd Year student at IPAM, University of Sierra Leone.

 

“What would you do to ensure that the girl child stays in school from nursery school to SSS Three (3) / Form six?”


“An Educated Woman empowers the society at large” unknown.  The girl child in our society is often considered a discriminated person. Conservatively
put at 17.3% whose age is between 6-14 years, 23.3% for girls between 15 and
above, 47.1% for those between 6 and 14 years, and 56.7% for ages 15 and above,
Sierra Leone holds a significant number of out of school children (2015, population
and housing census, statistic Sierra Leone). Out of these total, 60 per cent are
girls found on the street; according to the united nation international children’s funds
(UNICEF) these are however usually sent on the streets to help affluent families in
order to help sustain themselves and their families. Even though the new direction
government of President Retired Julius Maada Bio introduced the free quality education
in September 2018 and has provided one meal a day for pupils so as to encourage the
poorer parents to send their children to school, many parents are still unable to afford
any access to essential school materials through the free quality education.
However, one key challenge the girl child has in school has is the unsuitability of
sanitary facilities, such as water and toilets that contribute to keeping the girl child
away from school, from JSS to SSS in several communities within Sierra Leone. A girl
child, who already suffers from the challenges of attaining puberty, needs a safe place
to maintain proper hygiene, which sadly is not available in most schools in Sierra
Leone. That is why we must commend the “Uman Talk Project”, “Schools for Salone”
and “Days for Girls Initiative”, non-governmental organizations that are working

through their “Safe Space Clubs” to teach girls in rural areas about how to make re-
usable sanitary pads from easily available pieces of cloth and water proof fabrics. They

must be encouraged to continue the good work. In addition to the aforementioned
NGOs initiative, government, and partners equally wealthy citizens can all put hands on
deck to distribute free sanitary pads or towels to girls from poor homes to enhance
their chances of staying in school.
Moreover, early marriage has also been identified as a major mitigating factor against
girl child education, not just due to puberty but cultural and religious practices too, for
example, girls are married before the age of 15, and this particularly remains an issue
in the provincial parts of Sierra Leone where there is a higher percentage of girl child
illiteracy. While the government has been making frantic efforts, nonetheless, the
attitude of many girl children in some parts of the provinces in the country towards
western education has had serious consequences leading to the high rate of maternal
infant mortality in Sierra Leone, to reduce illiteracy rates through the Free Quality
Education, it is prudent to enlist prominent citizens from the most affected areas to
serve as ambassadors of basic education, to create awareness in girl child education.
Engaging prominent traditional and religious leaders who are outspoken on the course
of early school leavers would also be a step in the right direction.

Also, relevant agencies work fervently to provide safe learning environment for pupils
with adequate sanitary facilities, and also cater for special need children to also keep
them in school by providing the needful for them, also to ensure school building
accessible to children with special needs, those on wheel chairs should be able to aces
the premises unhindered, the benefit of keeping the girl child in school is enormous,
education empowers them to claim their rights, besides preparing them for leadership

roles in society. An educated expectant woman is likely to take steps to access pre-
natal and post natal services, leading to a reduction in infant and maternal mortality

rates to which Sierra Leoneans are among the largest contributors globally.
Concluding; I would strongly proffer for the enlistment of all children ages 3 to be in
Nursery and should be holistically free, this should also apply for basic and senior
education in Sierra Leone, also encourage the enrolment of more female teachers who
will serve as mentors to the girl child; to further ensure we have up to 40 per cent
female teachers in Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools across the country. This
intake of female teachers will help in keeping the girl child in school; these teachers will
be best in helping the girl child with menstrual education in schools so that the girl
child will feel more comfortable to discuss such matters with them. Also to make the
teaching field lucrative and attractive for female teachers, the school feeding
programmes should be nutritious and sufficient as this will help to not only keep the
girl child in school but every other Sierra Leonean School going child and this will
contribute to their healthy up bring.
To further keep these girls in schools, the government through it traditional leaders
should disband and pronounce early child marriage a criminal offense, and ensure that
the girl child is not seen hawking the streets of Sierra Leone especially during school
hours.

WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY:

ABIE BARRIE, First Year student at Njala University HD Development Communication & Journalism

 

“What would you do to ensure that the girl child stays in school from nursery school to SSS Three (3) / Form six?”

Education is very important for every child be it boy or girl but it is actually sad that some communities within our societies still discriminate against the education of the girl child. The fight against cultural and traditional intimidation against girl child education in Sierra Leone was a very big challenge. Girls were not allowed to express their views in their societies and even at home, thus limited their involvements in occupying key positions within our communities and in governance. The restriction of girls in a sphere of duties makes them narrow minded and such things can never be mindfully healthy. 

If a girl child is educated, she becomes empowered which serves as the main prerequisite for a healthy and developed nation if many are given such opportunities but most cultures in Sierra Leone have been persistently resistant about sending their girls to school and thus has resulted to early and forceful marriages, teenage pregnancies and the like. However, in this new- generation dispensation and with the awareness of civilization, girl child education is now becoming more supportive than ever since they are more vulnerable to most of the societal challenges which serves as major factors that militates the sustenance of their schooling from Nursery school until SSS3 (from 6) 

The percentage of girls dropping out from school nowadays is becoming an issue as a nation but I believe that by identifying these possible causes, it will help to salvage possible solutions that I’m sure, will increase the maintenance of these young girls in school. Many are the causes that are affecting the stay of girls in school but highlighted few are as follows: 

• Sexual and reproductive health. 

• Poor sexual education in schools and communities. 

• Little or no involvements in girl child empowerment. 

• The desire to become beautiful which is ruining the self-esteem of most potential young girls in our societies etc. 

However, I’m optimistic that if the methods discussed below which I believe are the major prerequisite to girls’ empowerment, are given effective consideration, it will help girls to stay in school. 

1. Sex education as a subject in schools and communities. 

The increased rate of drop outs in schools of which girls are of great majority has been very alarming and this has not been something that the nation is proud about though numerous fights have been ongoing to put an end to such menace. Many teenage girls get unwanted pregnancies and therefore become drop outs because of poor ideas about sex education. Girls must be fully aware about the adolescent/puberty stage, what they ought to know about their body and hormonal changes during this phase of sexual development and how they should interpret certain signs, as this stage serves as one of the most critical transition phases in their lives. But how are these understood? Except through sexual education as it will help them to be in charge and having full control of themselves. Due to the cultures of most societies, sexual education for girls is in total disagreement by some parents in some homes thus seeing it as a taboo and as a result of ignorance, most girls fall prey in their early ages by being pregnant. With it effects, (early unwanted pregnancy) most girls fall victim of the fear of stigma never to continue their schooling thus the drop out. However, for proper implementation of this method, there should be concerted efforts to preserve the status quo thus, parents, government and religious leaders should work hand in glove to facilitate successful implementation of policies that will effect this change in order to reduce the immerse rate of teenage pregnancies and to help girls stay in school. 

2. Girls’ mentorship programs in schools. 

Save pace for girls and girls’ mentorship programs should be provided in schools and communities in as to help girls participate in addressing the issues affecting them whether through personal or societal impacts. As the adage goes which says, “If you tell me, I will know, if you show me, I’ll see but if you involve me, I’ll understand”. Hence, by involving young girls in “frank talks” and many developmental programs (like seminars, workshops on girls empowerment, debates and career camps), this will enable them develop strength to face their challenges without fear. Our girls of NOW will be societal change elements TOMORROW and one cannot underestimate the capabilities of a woman in attaining powers but this can only happen if these girls are mentored to lead change in societies in as to maintain them in school up to SSS3. 

3. Capacity-Building Training for girls in school. 

In recent years, the burning desires of most girls to grow up in becoming vibrant and influential women in societies through education is being quenched, and that can only be empowered through capacity-building. The inability of most girls to discover what they want or who they want to become makes them fall off the bridge during their teens when they become faced with unbearable circumstances which leads them to making wrong choices in critical situations. Capacity-building training will help school going girls in Sierra Leone to realize their fullest potentials and empower them to make better decisions as they participate in societal development because many have got gifts but due to societal influence, it still remains undiscovered. I strongly believe as a teen that capacity building does not only enable girls to move forward but it also challenges them to be motivated and inspire others which can help increase their love to be actively involved in learning. 

4. Continuous campaign against teenage pregnancy and early marriage. 

Awareness rising on the effects of teenage pregnancy and introduction of contraceptives in the rural and urban areas should be a responsibility for all. Early marriage as a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and child abuse has destroyed the lives of most young girls. Early introduction to forceful sex has led to the damage of the reproductive organs of many young girls, leaving them with bitter sexual lives because of undesirable choices made by some parents. This has resulted to many drop outs from schools either due to the consequences of teenage pregnancies or not being allowed to continue anymore. The introduction of the use of contraceptives for most girls will help to reduce this menace (increasing rate of girls’ drop out). Hence, if girls should stay in school up to SSS3, the government and leaders ( religious and traditional) should make policies like the sexual offence acts and many other to enforce perpetrators of sexual abuse and I believe with enforcement of these policies and bi-laws, there will be gradual positive changes. 

In a bid, I am a girl in my teens and if I’m safe, I believe others may not and this fight can only be successful by cooperative work. Therefore, with my listed points, I know change can start from anywhere. Hence, I am ready to work with my colleagues in my school and other schools within my district in order to establish forums that will help this campaign to be effective through; School outreaches, radio discussions, quiz and debate competitions, seminars and workshops etc. about girls’ empowerment. With this dream, and with effective efforts to actualize it, the awareness would be created in our societies which I believe that its impacts will help the government in the fight to maintain girls in school from Nursery school until SSS3 (form 6).


WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY:

Isatu Bridget Ansu, Koidu Secondary School (KSS), KOIDU TOWN, KONO DISTRICT, EASTERN PROVIENCE

 

“What would you do to ensure that the girl child stays in school from nursery school to SSS Three (3) / Form six?”

The following are to be done to ensure that girl child stay in school from nursery school until SS3.  Years back, traditional belief create no space for girl child education in Sierra Leone, this and other reasons makes it very difficult for girls to access education. Moreover in the new generation dispensation and with the awareness of civilization, girl child education is more supportive than that of the male child education. But with all these supports given to girls yet over 50% of girls in Sierra Leone never continue with their education from nursery to SS3, reasons relating to this are many. However, from my point of view I prefer we should used these key methods that will lead to sustainable girl child education in Sierra Leone.


Firstly, parents should send their girls very early to school at most three years and not to wait for seven years. When they are sent to school at a very tender age you may find out the love they will have for education, and that is the time they will be able to concentrate on their school because there is nothing to distract them. If parents send their girls early to school before eighteen they will be thinking of University. 


Furthermore, parents and government should also encourage girls. Parents should provide the basic needs of their girl child, and they should also create a cordial relationship between their girls. If parents do not have the opportunity to give them their basic needs the time they want it, they should talk to them to make them understand and not to shout on them. Government should give scholarships to girls that are determined in order to motivate the ones that are not determined to learn. Government should also take girls on field trip to places like hospital, banks, police station etc, to see their fellow women working so that they would admire and also want to be like them. They should also give scholarships to girls that have University requirement no matter the faculty; this will also give them more determination for education. 

Moreover, there should be proper monitoring for girls. Parents should monitor their girls properly. Parents should visit their girls’ school to check the attendance of their girls; this will make them regular in school. They should also be monitory their school notes by inspecting their books and to check whether they have assignment or not. Parents should help their girls to do their assignment at home. Government should supply girls text books because some parents do not have the upper hand to buy these books for them. This will also help them to read ahead and also finish their syllabus on time or before time. Government should send agents to make sure that these books are supplied and teachers also are teaching effectively. They should also establish a counselling committee in schools and the head of this committee should be a teacher. Whenever they are confused with something either at home or in school they should go directly to the teacher that is heading that committee to give them a better advice. 


In addition, parents should be self discipline towards their girl children they should not encourage all sorts of things from them. Mothers have to play a great role in this because fathers are not always at home. They should advice the girls to beware of bad friends; they should not encourage all sorts of friends for their girls because some are bad influence to them. They should make friends with those who are ready to learn and not those who are not ready as they may influence them to be like them. However if they do anything bad, they should first advice them and if they continue, they need to be punish severely as scholars says “don't spear the rod and spore the child.”

Finally, the government and NGOs should organised capacity building training for all school going girls. Many girls in Sierra Leone are incapacitated which makes them less powerful to continue with their education when they normally face unbearable circumstances, the mind set of many girls are poor to determine exactly what is good for them when making critical decisions, capacity building training will help school going girls in sierra Leone to realize their fullest potentials and empower them to make a better decisions and to participate in society development. One of the key causes for girls in sustainability in schools is teenage pregnancy. Awareness rising on the effect of teenage pregnancy and the introduction of contraceptives in rural and urban areas should be a must responsibility for all. Many girls are drop out of school and some of these girls normally don't continue school anymore because of teenage pregnancy. Girls should be introducing to the use of contraceptives to stop the high rate of drop out in schools leading from teenage pregnancy.


The government and leaders should make policies and by-laws that will aid the sustainability of girls in school. Policies like the sexual offences act and many other policies must be enforce to perpetrators of sexual abuse. Enforcement of these policies and laws will less child abuse and aid girls to stay in school till SS3.  Save space for girls and girl mentorship programs should be provided in schools and communities to help girls participate and bring up issues that are disturbing them. This will aid the sustainability of girls in schools because there is a platform to discuss their problems. Sex education should be a subject in all the schools. All in a bid we must all join our hands together not only to support girls to go to school but to help them stay in school and end schooling. 

WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY: 

Mojaman Varney Kanneh, 

Zenith International Academy, Bo District, SSS 3 Science

 

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