John Saffa is a member of OVP’s Community Action Group and a town elder in the village of Grima. He participated in a recent NOW Family Session where husbands joined their wives for discussion and activities about communication, trust and unity. As the NOW program comes to a close in the villages of Grima, Gbeka and Mamboma, we held another Family Session to revisit some of the activities about gender roles and continue the conversations about communication. So far, the Family Sessions are proving to be a great success in encouraging a dialogue within the homes and communities.
As a town elder, John is responsible for sitting in on dispute cases in his community along with the Chiefs in Grima. In rural communities in Sierra Leone, when families have a dispute they often go to the Chiefs and pay a fee to have the Chief solve their dispute almost like a court case. During the recent Family Session, John boldly said that he has observed no dispute cases from the NOW participants and their husbands since the start of the NOW program in January. This is very encouraging news!
Some NOW participants are even entrusting NOW Program Coordinators like myself to help mediate their conflicts and work towards a peaceful solution. Recently a participant and her husband came to me to help mediate a long-standing dispute between them. I organized a conflict mediation session with both families. During the session each side was able to speak and share their opinions and in the end both parties accepted responsibility and moved on peacefully. I even saw the husband recently and he shared how well the two are now getting along. Had the participant brought this issue to the Chiefs, both parties would be responsible for paying many fees and the conflict would likely have not been solved because the discussion would have been heated and not directive. A forum for discourse has opened up within the families of NOW participants. A sure factor in this is OVP’s facilitation on barriers that can prevent participants from meeting their goals that they define for themselves at the beginning of the NOW program, such as lack of communication, disunity and unnecessary spending.
We, as OVP staff, stress the importance of good communication and unity and we emphasize this during the Family Sessions. After some interactive activities, we encourage participants and their husbands to keep communicating. We want them to put these skills into practice in their homes. If only one person feels like they have power, it is not equal and does not foster development. With open lines of communication, our participants and their families are more likely to develop and reach their goals. Another reason these Family Sessions are so successful is because the husbands want to attend. Husbands are interested in attending the Family Session because we are encouraging the participants to go home and share the lessons they are learning with their husbands. We are demonstrating to participants the value of teamwork and good communication in the home and that with these open lines of communication, development will happen.
I think participants open up to me because I open up to them and make myself familiar. I tell them, we are all the same and I make sure we work as if we are all the same. The NOW program has been instrumental in encouraging participants to use their voice and look at their own problems and barriers. We are giving them a forum to discuss their problems, which they didn’t have before. We are seeing remarkable results, women speaking up and families finding greater unity, which will surely lead to sustainable and prosperous development.
Introducing OVP NOW Project Coordinator: Foday A. Sesay
Foday is from Bo, Sierra Leone and shares that mediation and conflict resolution is one of his favorite parts of being a NOW Coordinator. He is able to solve family issues and strengthen the capacity of women – encouraging them to be able to stand on their own and not be dependent on others for help. Foday shares, “I think this is the best thing we can offer to any community, self-reliance.”
Something you might not know about Sierra Leone?
Foday shares that Sierra Leone is an incredibly friendly country where everyone is accepted, from any nation. “Even Pomois,” Foday says. When visitors come, everyone here just wants to see and talk to them because they are so interested to know them.
Pomoi is a term in Mende that means foreign person.