Justice Miatta Maria Samba who was recently elected to serve as a Judge at the International Criminal Court for a nine-year term has launched the ‘Young Women Leaders’ initiative, for the Sierra Leone Chapter of the African Women Leaders Network, at the Fifty-Fifty Headquarters, Tower Hill in Freetown.
She explained that the Sierra Leone Chapter of the African Women Leaders Network is a registered national and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with the Ministry of Gender and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development with the objective of promoting Women leadership and empowerment. Adding that Its membership include women from all walks of life.
Justice Samba said that the African Women Leaders Network seeks to enhance the leadership of women for the transformation of Africa with a focus on governance, peace, stability, sustainable development, economic empowerment and Women’s access to finance.
She admonished young female leaders not to rely on the femininity but rather work hard and stay focused on their objective and goals.
“My achievement came with a lot of hard work and commitment. I remained focused on my dreams. I knew that no one could make of myself what I am today and I got to that realization at a very early stage of my life.” Justice Samba maintained.
Further adding, “as we keep echoing the gender sensitivity, our being women is not all there is to it. We all would advocate in our highest pitched voices for gender parity but to compete and outsmart our male counterparts we must as women be competent, hard-working and focused as the men. We must give up some of our excesses to gain what we want…”
Justice Samba encouraged young women to move to the front row and take the driver’s seat of leadership instead of sitting at the back seat as followers.
“I encourage you to take up these leadership roles should the opportunity come your way. No matter how daunting the task may seem you won’t know unless you try it.”
“Nobody was born a leader” she said. Adding, “it is possible to learn leadership while playing the role.”
She encouraged young women to speak up on issues they are interested in or which is affecting them “I will also ask that you speak up when you have the opportunity to put forward your views on an issue particularly that which you may be knowledgeable or passionate about.”
“It is possible to be identified with your opinions rather than your gender so grab the moment and put your mind out there… [and] be loyal to your integrity.”
Justice Samba advised the young women not to be discouraged by stumbling blocks in advancing what you want as a woman. “Our gender must not discourage but rather encourage us in pursuing our careers. Your voice and your work can certainly contribute in dismantling these huddles for women to go forward in their different careers in life.”
She advised other women to mentor and reach out to the younger generation and show them the possibilities out there. “There is a lot to be done. We must continue to strive hard to reach our goals… and talk out loudly on what offends us as women”, Justice Samba stressed.
Chairperson of the African Women Leadership Network (AWLN), Valnora Edwin said this decade is of great importance for African women and our young girls to build the momentum and consolidate the gains realized over the years in efforts to close the existing gender gaps.
She said Women’s political participation and leadership roles in the regional, national and community level have seen growing trends of decline with currently only Ethiopia has a female president from a previous two and only three countries with female vice presidents.” Adding, “representation in the legislation is equally worrying [though] Rwanda has the most enviable number of women in their legislation worldwide; we see the representation going beyond the political space but also other sectors in society, especially in the financial world, entrepreneurship, owning shares and businesses.”
Valnora explained that the engagement in those spaces in design implementation and monitoring of policies would address the poverty situation of women through improved people centered policies.
She said AWLN had “centralized the inter-generational conversation,” adding that “young women leaders must be recognized in the board room, in engineering, agriculture, mining, education, the arts, administration to redefine and address the gaps that previous generations have failed.”
Valnora explained that the Sierra Leone chapter would build on the commitment made during the second women’s leaders forum in promoting the leadership of young women. We will mobilize establish and strengthen young women participation across all levels of the network, support the implementation of activities including our lobbying and advocacy flagship initiative which is the campaign for a quota for young women representation in leadership and process across all sectors and in all levels of governance.
M. Mckay remarked Sierra Leone like many other African countries have come a long way in the global fight for women to have the recognition that they deserve.
She commended the AWLN “because a call to action was another leap frog and was really critical in the fight to make a difference not only globally but also in Serra Leone. It is necessary for these organizations to be set up especially when we talk about bringing professional women together,” adding that “there is strength in unity.”
The UN women representative said Leadership starts within the heart. “What I’m seeing here is not a launching it is an education.” She advised young women to get out of their seat and not wait for opportunities but rather fight to be at that table. “I hope we will have the opportunity at UN women to work with new leaders”
Former Member of Parliament Hon. Bernadette Lahai said the policy framework on which the African Women Leaders Network is anchored in the Africa we want agenda 2O63.