Legal Link Convenes 1st National Conference on Women & Leadership

By Esther Wright

The Christian Lawyers Centre also known as LEGAL LINK joined the world on the 8th March 2021 to celebrate International Women’s Day at the Africell American Corner on Bathurst Street in Freetown.

As part of the lined up activities to commemorate the day, the organization hosted the 1st National Conference on Women and Leadership in Sierra Leone.

Speaking on the theme, “Women and their Journey towards Leadership: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects” the keynote speaker, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, in her opening remarks, thanked Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya, the Executive Director of Legal Link for his determined effort in defending and advocating for women’s rights in the country.

While expressing her delight, she emphasized that she was highly impressed with the activities conducted by Legal Link especially regarding the rights of women and vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone.

She also reminded the audience that Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya defended her at the CID when she was being detained beyond the constitutional period required by law.

According to her, for those reasons combined with the seriousness she placed on the International Women’s Day event, she said she endeavoured to honour the invitation even though she is currently bereaved.

Dr. Blyden said women deserve significant places in society but advised that there must be no compromise in choosing female leaders for top positions in society based on gender sentiments.

She emphasized that, “we should choose a woman as a leader based on merits and not because it’s women’s time”.  “Let us carefully look for a better leader regardless of his or her gender,” she admonished.

She intimated the audience of some good qualities which a leader must possess which are; God fearing, courageous mindset and resilience, one who cannot sit on the fence in times of crisis, loyalty, honesty, one with the ability to forgive others, innovative, full of enthusiasm and intelligence etc.

The Guest Speaker said when a leader is chosen  that lacks compassion for humanity, one that is a fool that is so tense in addressing issues rather than bringing joy and happiness,  society and its people will suffer greatly.

She further espoused that even though many women have been able to rise to many leadership positions in the country, they have however been unable to occupy the presidency, vice presidency and speakership positions in the country.

She confirmed that women are less corrupt in society than men and therefore would serve better than the men in these positions if given the chance.

Dr. Blyden called on Sierra Leonean women to aspire for the above positions and break the long standing taboo that had existed ever since.

One big challenge faced by women according to her “is the fact that we are living in a patriarchal dominated society in which women are required for certain reasons to be submissive to men”.

This conditioning has become a great challenge for women towards their journey of politics and leadership in the country.

She ended up by calling on women “to use their cranial cavity instead of their pelvic cavity to get to the helms of leadership”.

Rashid Dumbuya Esq, the Executive Director of Legal Link gratefully thanked Dr. Sylvia Blyden for honouring the invitation and for her unflinching efforts in serving as a role model and symbol of courage to younger women aspiring for leadership in the country.

He expressed his admiration by confessing that he had never seen such an outstanding woman in Sierra Leone who has been so resilient in confronting political and legal obstacles without any fear or intimidation.

“She is hardly being reduced to silence in matters connecting to civil rights and social justice,” he added.

“Even at the Commission of Inquiry and in criminal court proceedings, Dr. Blyden, as one with no legal background defended herself and came out victorious,” he continued.

Lawyer Dumbuya said he was inspired and felt motivated to invite the long serving female human rights activist and journalist to tell her story, inspire and encourage younger women to come forward and compete for leadership positions in the country.

Other Civil Society activists, including a female representative from the National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCPD), explained that women are still being discriminated against especially disable women but however called on all disabled women to keep going in order to reach their potentials and destinations in life.

A vibrant female activist, Ms Marian Pleasant Kargbo who was also one of the panellists and Executive Director of Pleasant Foundation, espoused that there is a path to success as young women despite the stiff challenges they are presently experiencing in the society.

She however pleaded with women to continue to empower themselves in order to be able to attain the heights of leadership.

Executive Director of Citizens Advocacy Network, Thomas Moore Conteh, appreciated Legal Link for convening such a well celebrated event for women.

He said that despite the huge challenges meted against women in the country, some progress have been made in the promotion and protection of women’s rights in society.

Moore affirmed that the establishment of a special court dealing with sexual offences and the lifting of the ban for pregnant girls in school are all indicators that there is hope for women to one day succeed in their quest for equal participation in the political landscape of the country.

Other speakers who similarly spoke on the same theme include representatives from Environmental Alert, National Youth Coalition,   FBC Law Society, school going pupils from Methodist Girls High school (MGHS), Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG) and host of other participants.

It was however recommended by the audience at the end of the program for a few resolutions to be made to Government for urgent consideration regarding women’s rights and livelihoods.

These recommendations include: The urgent need for better inclusion of women in governance and decision making institutions; the urgent need to provide micro financing support for women to boost their economic status and livelihoods; the urgent need to provide scholarships to female students in technical courses in the University of Sierra Leone  to foster economic independence of women; the urgent need to address the issue of domestic Violence in a bid to protect women in the domestic arena and the urgent need to provide health support and health education to women in Sierra Leone to help save their lives and children.

The program was climaxed with joyous celebrations.


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