Author: Abdulai Sesay, Community Action Coordinator
Kigbai is a small community in the east of Sierra Leone with broad social and resource potentials. Mamie Joseph grow up in the midst of these untapped promises and watched her community unable to unite in order to pioneer community development. Kigbai community was divided across gender, family, and social lines. Mamie and the Kigbai community lacked the knowledge and understanding that if they could only unite as one, they would be able to achieve more together and create harmony through their cohesion. Mamie disclosed, “Over time, my community was trapped in a state where cultural identities, social amenities and spiritual wellbeing were constrained by division.’’ Therefore, women were isolated and afraid to seek public recognition. Many husbands in this community controlled everything, fearing the women would take over. Therefore, the women lacked access to community resources and had very little community support. Leaders and youths were not able to dine under the same roof, showing the absence of communal peace. Existing groups in the community became dysfunctional due to the stereotyping and division throughout the community.
When OneVillage Partners partnered with Kigbai, they sought 12 volunteers to form the Community Action Group. Mamie signed up to volunteer. She took part in intensive trainings in planning, budgeting, mobilization, and monitoring. As a creative problem solver and efficient social organizer, she helped to transform her community into a dignified society. Gradually she was able to assist community members to overlook their differences and foster relationships. This reinforced their collective identity as a community with much potential. Mamie realized that this lack of unity had impeded community change and development and made it more challenging to mobilize and harness resources. Mamie ascertains that, “We now have a collective sense to initiate local ideas that are determined, led, and controlled by our collective efforts.” Kigbai is now a community that values the strength of unity devoid of gender and religious discrimination. Instead they pull resources to address one dream and prioritize communal growth.
The community has effectively mobilized resources and undertaken a number of self-led projects outside of OneVillage Partners’ support. They have come together to construct a community mosque and cultivated palm oil and swamp rice. More women have become engaged in revolving agricultural activities with seedlings supports in groundnut, rice, and garden eggs. The community also fully supported the construction of a safe drinking water station. Mamie and her Kigbai community now focus and contribute not only for their community’s development but others as well. Mamie like many other women now feels empowered to effectively participate in decision making. Today, women have increased their capacity, and are supported by the community to access communal resources. This sense of cohesion felt among community members has activated a peaceful coexistence in the community. Community members now support each other to reach individual and collective goals. With the realization that “Societies become what they are because they invest their strength in unity,” Mamie stands tall and proud in Kigbai community.