The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), over the weekend, concluded its 12 years anniversary and Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the British Council auditorium in Freetown with a display of produce by FAWE members from various districts.
Speaking on the theme ‘Education: a tool for development and women’s empowerment”, the Ghanaian High Commissioner Dr Mrs Mokowa Blay Gyamfi in her keynote address explained that the theme had been topical and cross cutting across Sierra Leone.
She said, “the country in a post-conflict situation is now moving from humanitarian to the development phase and the fast tracking of this development phase can only be done with the empowerment of women which will be through education”.
In the western world, the High Commissioner said before women gained the privilege to be educated, they were believed to be lower class citizens and not worthy of voting or owning property.
“When women urged to be educated, they were called many derogatory names and faced a lot of opposition,” the High Commissioner said.
Dr Mrs Mokowa Blay Gyamfi narrated that women accounted for 52.5% in the industrialized world and 51% in the sub- Sahara Africa and that this included Sierra Leone and that women performed two-thirds of the hours worked and out of this they received one tenth of the world’s income.
The High Commissioner averred that the most recent report from the US Department
of State on Sierra Leone revealed that the average educational level for girls was marked below that of boys and only 20% of women were literate.
She commended FAWE for the work in promoting girls and women to a better education as the saying went: “you educate a woman you educate a nation but if you educate a man you educate an individual.”
The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mrs Abator Thomas in her opening remarks, said women’s access to education in Sierra Leone was a burning issue.
The age old adage, she went on, “‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’ is one which contemporary society is totally against as we believe women can do men’s role and do it more better”.
Sierra Leone, she went on, “has been ranked second to last in the Human Development Index and this is because the full potentials of women are not developed as poverty, HIV/AIDS also hinder the development of women as most of the time they are the victims”. ‘
The Programme Support Manager Plan-Sierra Leone, Mrs Miriam Murray, pledged her organization’s continued support to FAWE and said their partnership “lies beyond the boundaries of Sierra Leone”.
This relationship, she added, “has provided a platform for exchanges and further planning for marginalized people in different parts of Africa”.
As a key actor in development, Mrs Murray went on, “FAWE’s contribution towards marginalized groups of people especially during the war and the period after has been exemplary.
FAWE’s effort in moving development for the marginalized populace requires the attention of all men, all women, local government and local authorities.”
Since the inception of FAWE there has been a lot of challenges, and one of those big challenges is that of promoting a strong and more productive role for women which inevitably demands a broad and flexible approach.