By Ibrahim Sangba

In a bid to inspire future generations, Advocate for Youths Empowerment (AYE) has honored the 50 most influential women in Kono District on the 10th of November, 2023. AYE is a registered and credible non-governmental organization based in the Kono District, at the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.

The organization was established in 2021 with a focus on two thematic areas – youth capacity building and women empowerment. In 2022, it recognized its first 50 most influential women in the district and it continues with the second edition this year as well.

According to the Chairman of AYE, Mr Abubakar Fofanah, this year’s nomination for the award started in July under the auspices of eleven-member steering committees that initially vetted 450 awardees throughout the district. After long days and weeks of consultation, scrutiny, and analysis, the committee presented 80 names for public voting.

“The categories of award covered a wide range of fields of work in society including but not limited to Agriculture, Education, Business Politics, Activism, and more,” Mr Fofanah stated.

In an interview with AYE Chairlady, Madam Isatu Sow, she explained that recognizing influential women through awards is not only crucial but also inspirational and motivational, especially when one wants to observe all protocols for it to be fair and free from all forms of biases.

She highlighted the vision of the organization in a patriarchal society like the Kono District which does not only aim at the current achievements of women in society but also promotes gender equality and inspires others. “It signals a shift towards acknowledging diverse contributors in society, fostering inclusivity, and challenging traditional gender norms,” she said.

She concluded by calling young girls and women to work hard wherever they find themselves adding that this present world is the women’s world.

The keynote speaker of the event was the Kono District Council Chairman, Mr Augustine Sahr Sheku.

Speaking on the role of women in politics and national development, Mr Sheku opened his speech with a call to all women to try their best to discover themselves for the purpose for which they were created. “The tragedy of all of us is not that when we die because that is the end of everybody. It is when what leaves in us dies when we are still alive,” he stated.

He further maintained that the 18th to the 20th century were dominated by men yet the answers to societal problems were unachievable.

Chairman Sheku reiterated that the idea of partnership in this present generation is very key but that any association that wants to attract the interest of others should be female-friendly.

“Women have a critical role to play that is why in Sierra Leone we have found out that in the last few years, most of our legislation are female friendly, and even this year Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) were requested to develop their budget with a clause that all budget should be female friendly so that it will seek the attention of government,” he closed.

Speaking to one of the award recipients in the area of agriculture, Madam Sitta Isata Kaikai narrated her excitement and admiration of the whole process of the award, “It was fair, transparent and motivational for future generations,” she said.

She however advised the organizers to work ahead of time for the subsequent awards.

Madam Finda Catherine Greenwood was also another recipient in the field of Community Engagement. She explained the award’s influence on her entire life and that she is ready to serve the society more than ever before.

She ended by encouraging the organizers to set a benchmark for future awardees so that an individual would not dominate the receiving of awards each year. In addition to the awardees, Mary K. Alieu was awarded in the area of Activism. She highlighted her profound gratitude to the organizers and the entire executive of AYE for the positive mindset they have for the district. Mrs Alieu encouraged the young generation to follow such positive minds instead of engaging in idle activities.

Some of the awardees including but not limited to Adeline Ada Kargbo popularly known as Aunty Ada – Field of Education, Zianab Kamara – security sector, Mariama Mansaray aka Versace – Field of Business and Service Delivery, Esther Finda Kandeh – field of Activism, madam Isata Felicia Wleh-Philips aka Kumba Digba – field of Agriculture, Sia Annie Missah Barrie – field of Inspiration and many other awardees.

The program was well attended by stakeholders and traditional authorities including the Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs Kono District, Paramount Chief Torcheh Foryoh IV, David Kaimachiande, an aspirant for the upcoming Gbense Chiefdom Paramount Chieftaincy Election, Jihad Basma, a notable diamond dealer and exporter, Dr. Sao Joseph to name but few. 

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