Hawa Saffa participated in the Nurturing Opportunities for Women (NOW) Program in Ngolahun community in 2017. Before joining the program, Hawa was always shy in public gatherings, mostly because she was discouraged by her husband but also because her parents had neglected her education when she was a child. She stated that, “My parents thought that education was not for female children but for only for boys.” This lack of a basic education has prevented many women from coming forward to speak in public gatherings. “I was always in the kitchen or the back yard doing domestic work. My husband was not happy whenever I appeared in public.” The prevailing attitude in most Sierra Leonean society is that women should take a backseat, and not present themselves to speak at community gatherings. This has made it very hard for women’s contributions to be recognized by leaders.
When Hawa joined the NOW program and began attending sessions, she started to recognize the important role she played in both her home and in her community.
“I began suggesting meaningful ideas for the upkeep of the home to my husband, there he realized that my voice was also important despite gender norms.”
Hawa appeared first in a public meeting when tax collectors came to Ngolahun to give information about the tax system in their chiefdom. Many people did not understand why they were paying a particular tax and did not know how it was being used. Hawa worked up the courage to ask a brilliant and interesting question that provided insight to the community.
“I was applauded and felt proud of myself. I felt that I too was very important in the community. Likewise, the community members recognized that women can also do good in building bridges for community growth.”
Since then Hawa has been regular attendee of community meetings and community work. She has been taking an active role in supporting her community’s project with OneVillage Partners to repair and build a more sustainable local bridge. In addition, her husband adheres to her voice, thus making a better home for them all. Hawa is now highly motivated to plan with her husband and even the broader community on important matters. With her increased confidence level, she is encouraging and motivating other community women to come forward. Gradually their voices too will be recognized by their leaders.
Author: Foday Sesay, Nurturing Opportunities for Women Manager