By Amin Kef (Ranger)
One of Sierra Leone’s vociferous, professionally savvy female electronic media personalities, Asmaa James, has disclosed that at the end of September 2023 she will be quitting Radio Democracy 98.1 FM after twenty-two years of dedicated service as a broadcaster during which she served in various capacities up to the position of Station Manager.
In an exclusive but snappy engagement with this medium, Asmaa James intimated that it has been a twenty-two years journey of learning and growth furthering that she is now on the verge of facing a season of new adventures, challenges and wins adding that she will commence the exploration of a road not taken that will undoubtedly lead to somewhere underscoring that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun.
She pointed out that in life one does not have to be scared of what lies ahead of him or her and the first step is the willingness to try.
It must be noted that in her twenty-two years of unwavering and committed service at Radio Democracy, Asmaa James, carved out a niche for herself in the electronic media as an independent and objective journalist who raised her voice against injustice and provided solace to the needy, marginalized and oppressed, inspiring them as well as giving them hope especially when, sometimes, there was seemingly no hope.
Instrumental in widely popularizing the radio station’s flagship programme, “Gud Morning Salone”, which many most times are glued to on weekdays, she had on many occasions raised awareness among the vast majority of both the citizenry and non-citizens on various political and socio-economic issues in ways similar to leading the blind in a dark alleyway.
Her ingenuity and impressive professional acumen were most times evidently seen in her usual way of asking her hosts in the 98.1 FM Radio Studios penetrating questions during radio interviews or engagements, supported in doing so by other able colleagues, some whom she personally trained to bring them up to speed making the programmes endearing, informative and educative.
Through that initiative she succeeded, on many occasions, in making public officials, who attempt to be economical with the truth to transparently and accountably give stewardship of how certain activities or situations were either carried out or handled. Sometimes arguments over certain issues became so tense creating situations as if fist cuffs will ensue but however, at the end of the day it is the truth boldly stands out and the public interest is given prominence over parochial interests and self-aggrandizement.
In probing public officials, Asmaa James, like any objective journalist became the victim of a mistaken personality. Whenever she critique certain policies undertaken by members of a ruling Government she was tagged as being an opposition mouthpiece and when she praises Governmental actions she was considered to be a praise singer.
Through that platform, the seemingly “voiceless” majority found a convenient space to add their voices to national conversations through the phone-in segment of the programme.
However, impressively in the midst of scathing criticisms and branding, Asmaa James, always held her head high and stayed her course with a focused mind.
It is also worthy to note that through her journey within the electronic media landscape, she developed strong advocacy skills which she translated into passionately championing the rights of women and the Girl Child. She founded the Asmaa James Foundation (AJF), an advocacy movement geared towards promoting teenage sexual reproductive health and rights, with the objective of raising awareness, mobilizing women and girls to advocate and influence policies of sexual health in Sierra Leone.
Asmaa, over the years, added Girls + as an extension of AJF, an initiative geared towards targeting young boys in promoting teenage sexual reproductive health and rights, with the strong notion that both sexes should be targeted for fruitful outcomes in combating socio-economic issues associated with young people.
Indeed the history of gender advocacy will never be complete if mention is not made of how she vociferously and loudly raised her voice against rape, sexual penetration and the brutal killings of women or girls right across the country.
Leading peaceful protests to raise awareness on sensitive gender issues by her declaration of Black Fridays to register or demonstrate indignation as well as call for affirmative action is deemed to have greatly influenced the declaration of rape by President Julius Maada Bio as a national emergency and the emergence of the First Lady’s flagship “Hands Off Our Girls” programme.
Long before the radical inclusion policy was instituted and embedded in the President Bio’s led Government Free Quality Education Programme, she was very passionate about advocating for pregnant girls to be given the opportunity or space to pursue their education instead of considering them as drop outs.
She is the recipient of various awards bestowed on her by different organizations for excellence in radio broadcasting and it was therefore no big surprise when President Julius Maada Bio on the 27th April, 2022 honoured her as an Officer of Order of the Rokel (OOR). Her name will definitely go down the annals of broadcasting history in Sierra Leone as a force to reckon with and a model worthy of emulation.