Wuya and Amie are neighbors living in Majoe, a small village in Kailahun District, Eastern Sierra Leone. As in many villages, the people of Majoe exhibit strong bonds between community members. They believe that harmony and kindness are qualities shared not only to your direct family members, but also friends and neighbors. In Majoe and across Sierra Leone, neighbors become like family. Until recently, however, Wuya and Amie were bitter enemies.
In the 2012 general election, Wuya and Amie belonged to opposition parties. They had a fight related to their clashing political affiliations, which sparked oher disputes and animosity between the women. Wuya and Amie saw themselves as enemies and “two walls apart”, which deterred them from attending community meetings or any other event where the other may be present. Their husbands and elders tried to solve the problem and put an end to their mutual animosity, but to no avail. In January 2016, OVP entered the community of Majoe aiming to guide the community to identify their needs and produce targeted projects to successfully meet community-prioritized needs. To achieve this, twelve ‘change agents’ were selected to be trained as part of Majoe’s Community Action Group (CAG). Amie was selected as one of them.
Wuya, also seen an active woman in her own circles, refused to volunteer for the CAG because Amie was also being considered to be part of the group. Wuya did not participate in CAG-led community meetings to inform project selection or design. In the project implementation phase, she again refused to share their compound’s improved latrine with Amie. Wuya’s longstanding animosity toward Amie discouraged her from being engaged in OVP’s Community Action Program and benefitting from the project undertaken by the community and their CAG.
Six months after the latrine project was undertaken, OVP’s Nurturing Opportunities for Women (NOW) Program was introduced in the village. This time, Wuya was interested in joining the program, and she was selected as a member of Majoe’s NOW cohort. She is currently participating in the program and learning skills in household financial planning and management and decision making. Most importantly, she is also learning skills in good communication—a skill participants learn and practice in both the Community Action and NOW Programs.
Amie and Wuya now find themselves with a commonality; both belong to a program of OVP where they are learning new, capacity building skills. Other members of Majoe’s CAG, NOW cohort and the community as a whole have observed that both Amie and Wuya are using newfound skills and working on compromise and conflict resolution. Recently, Majoe’s Community Action Coordinator mediated a final peace talk between the women which was very successful. Once foes, Amie and Wuya are now acting as one and living peacefully and harmoniously. They are still neighbors, but now see each other also as sisters. Amie happily tell others this story of ‘how her enemy became her sister’, which she believes has increased individual and collective wellbeing.
Amie and Wuya’s story illustrates that participants from both the Community Action and NOW programs are applying learned skills in their daily lives. Even though their respective trainings are unique, shared skills and values encourage participants of both programs to stimulate household and community-wide development. For Amie and Wuya, their shared experience as part of OVP program groups—and the values and skills they adopted from involvement—led them to come together and see themselves as allies rather than adversaries. Amie and Wuya now see themselves as sisters, partners in development, and role models within the community.
OVP intentionally designed the Community Action and NOW programs to be holistic, and one of the outcomes that OVP intends to see in partner communities is social cohesion. Social cohesion is vital for individuals and communities to continue to work together to identify and solve problems through an inclusive lens. Amie and Wuya’s conflict resolution and newfound “oneness” is illustrative of our programs working to achieve this aim.
Introducing OVP’s Community Action Coordinator: Muje J. Belmoh
From: Bo, Southern Sierra Leone, the country’s second largest city.
What our coordinator loves about their work with OVP?
“One thing that makes me love my job is the direct impact that
I see in the lives of villagers. For example, in some communities before this time, you never see them practicing anything on hygiene, sanitation or even unity but now we are seeing all these changes. The dependency on us as an NGO is not an issue, they are doing things on their own. Communities realize that, with their own local resources, they can improve the standard of living in their community.”
Something you might not know about Sierra Leone?
“We have all the natural resources that will make us wealthy in Sierra Leone. If we have the knowledge in using these resources, we will not be exploited by the wealthier countries and we can use our resources for our benefit.”