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Unmasking Sierra Leone’s gender myth

Unmasking Sierra Leone’s gender myth

Go for the news! Issac Massaqui would tell us. That is years back, well, not that long though, at the university.  He was/is still a good lecturer. Of course, being the strict gentleman I used to know, (still the same?); he was the kind of academic instructor that jokes not, with his students when it comes to teaching the theories of journalism. Theories, indeed! Theories are not the same with the practical happenings. Some of the training I got from him may be playing a contributing role in my life today.  One thing that I have developed in the last 14 months of my posting as a Press Attaché is to not just limit myself to reporting daily happenings in my Embassy or giving direct reports on events as they happen.

Conducting interviews and writing articles on national issue forms part of my love for the job I know best-PR. (note: PR interviews, given my job in the rebranding effort of our beloved country). As succinctly put by Alvin Adams, Public relation is a key component of any operation in this day of instant communications and rightly inquisitive citizens. Taking the government to the people, by regular updates on happenings in the country, the embassy and the works of the President is just a brilliant way of projecting the positive side of one’s country.  Telling a story on Sierra Leone’s investment potentials can’t be done at a better time like this, under the leadership of President Koroma.  Put the investment opportunities in one basket look at issues of gender equality in our present day governance, as a country. Has the Koroma regime not succeeded in unmasking a seeming myth around women, from the framework of governance and leadership?  We today see a lot of women in leadership positions in Sierra Leone. From the Commissioner-General of the NRA, to the first female Chief Justice, to a number of female Ministers and Deputies,  and also to the first female Deputy Secretary-General of the Mano River Union, Madam Linda Koroma, amongst others

I came to know Rev. Mrs. Linda Koroma few days ago here in China where she had come to attend a partnership workshop organized by the Ambassadors along the Makona River Basin. The said workshop was aimed at re-thinking development assistance in a changing global order from the viewpoint of China’s growing presence in Africa”. It was also an informal brainstorming session, in ensuring a policy-oriented trilateral engagement to collectively analyze and elaborate on optimizing mutual benefits from Sino-Africa relation with particular focus on Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The attendance of the MRU (through Linda Koroma as Deputy Secretary) was crucial, given the presentation of the “Makona River Free Zone Development Initiative”, which is a joint sub-regional initiative of the three countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – as a case study in terms of exploring feasible ways to move the Agenda within the broader framework of China-Africa development cooperation.

Rev. Mrs. Linda Koroma

Rev. Mrs. Linda Koroma

There was a brilliant and excellent presentation by Linda Koroma on the growth triangle strategy of the MRU for sub-regional development. Following her presentation, I also was able to have a brief chat with her on the sideline on a range of issues; the quality of her presentation was impressive and to an extent served as an indicator that Sierra Leonean women can do amazing things not only at the country level, but even at international forums. It also should help, in my view to unmask the myth we often have had against women when it comes governance and leadership. The Koroma leadership style keeps giving prominence to women.  The level of women’s involvement in state governance is as encouraging today as the desire on the part of the President to keep them above waters and ensure their participation in the running of the state.  Madam Linda Koroma was/is the first female Deputy Secretary-General, to be appointed to the MRU by President Ernest Bai Koroma. For her “the decision by the President to appoint a woman to such a position shows, he supports women’s empowerment and recognizes the role of women in leadership”

Despite the challenges faced by women, Madam Linda Koroma apparently believes can be handled as it all has to do with “delivering and the ability to overcome challenges. It has to do with capacity…” she told me, emphasizing, that “there must be challenges but because of my given ability to get things done and with my networking and my background, my work appears to be easy as it is more about cooperation and collaboration” The Mano River Union was established in 1973 with a general mandate of sub-regional cooperation, with initially three countries; Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. But by 2008, Ivory Coast joined.   As with ECOWAS, MRU recognizes   the need for regional and sub-regional economic integration. Within the framework of sub regional cooperation, Rv. Mrs. Linda Koroma thinks, when it started, “it was good, but the war brought us back and now ECOWAS has taken center stage. However by 2008 the MRU Heads of State revitalized the union. There is the political will and now countries have increased their contributions to MRU… and we are now working hard to foster collaboration…things picking up.  On political governance, she believes “The situation of governments in the MRU shows stability in the region and the four Presidents are working as a team and talking to each other… even the summit, we are now meeting regularly to discuss issues on cooperation and collaboration… even the ministers are now also meetings as we have also revived the technical commissions… we are picking up again”, says Linda Koroma.

Given the eloquence of Linda Koroma, viewed from the front of women and leadership today, coupled with President Koroma’s high trust in having them into his governance, I am left with the view that it is high time we unmasked the myth we have had about the role of women in society and national building. If they used to be at the back seat, under the Koroma Presidency it is a different scenario.

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