OneVillage Partners operates in Sierra Leone, a peaceful country, characterized by religious tolerance, a beautiful landscape with stunning beaches and forest, rich traditions, and a vibrant culture. The country is also rich in minerals and natural resources, yet very few rural Sierra Leoneans have been able to reap the benefits of its land. Some of this is due to the critical need for infrastructure, health services and an improved education system, especially as communities work hard to recover from the devastating 11-year civil war, and from the 2014-15 Ebola Virus Outbreak.
OneVillage Partners works with rural communities in the Kailahun District in the eastern region of Sierra Leone. Kailahun District is an agricultural area, with many livelihoods relying on cash crops such as cocoa, coffee and rice.
Proud of its religious tolerance, Sierra Leone is a mix of Christian and Muslim. The communities we operate in are no different, with a high rate of intermarriage across both religious and tribal lines. There are over 15 major ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. The majority of OneVillage Partners’ partnered communities are predominantly Mende.
Clean drinking water and good sanitation are some of the greatest issues facing Sierra Leoneans, particularly in rural areas like Kailahun District. Only 47% of rural households have access to an improved drinking water source, and only 5% of rural households have access to an improved toilet facility (All statistics from Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey 2013). In Kailahun District, only 2.9% of households had a handwashing facility. This is why communities who work with OneVillage Partners overwhelming identify Water and Sanitation as their priority need, and collaborate with us to design lasting solutions to that need, such as wells, latrines, and handwashing stations. Read more about these solutions here.
In Sierra Leone, the literacy rate is 36% for women and 52% for men and in Kailahun District, over 70% of women cannot read at all. This marginalization begins early as girls are thrust into traditional roles, denying them proper access to education. This is but one example of the systemic challenges many women in Kailahun District face. Sierra Leone is traditionally a hierarchical and patriarchal society with deeply entrenched local leadership structures. Women rarely have a chance to make critical decisions for their communities or household. This is why OneVillage Partners designed a financial literacy program, that can be accessible to illiterate women but also encourages their use of voice. You can read more about this program here.
Sierra Leone’s culture is rich with tradition and wisdom, and OneVillage Partners believes that the core solutions to the country’s public health challenges and systemic inequality, are already present within the culture. Only by putting the community first in all aspects of our programs, from decision making to brick making, can we engage these solutions together.