SIERRA LEONE – Traditional cultural and religious practices in the predominantly Muslim country of Sierra Leone prevent women from taking part in community decision-making processes. For over 35 years, Our local partner, Christian Extension Services (CES) has been working to include an expanded role for women’s voices.
When a village expresses interest in improving their quality of life, CES begins their work with them by facilitating the establishment of a Village Development Committee (VDC) that can lead the development of community projects. This committee includes both men and women, an essential ingredient to ensuring that women’s concerns and priorities are part of the discussion from the beginning.
As part of this process, CES provides two days of training that includes the role of women as part of the VDC, the role of democracy, practicing leadership as a team, having mutual respect for each other, creating priorities, making plans, and achieving results. Members of the development committee selected by the village (5-9 members depending on the size of the community) then lead their community in an ongoing process of discerning what needs to be improved as well as building on what is going well.
When the people of Bambugu in northeastern Sierra Leone expressed interest in improving their community several years ago, Christian Extension Services assisted them in the formation of a Village Development Committee. CES staff person Andrew Kerah led the new community leaders, both men and women, in leadership training that included lessons in the responsibility of a community for making development projects happen, creating greater sustainability, and increasing food security.
One of the priorities chosen by the people of Bambugu was the construction a village meeting house, completed this past year with contributions from World Renew and the people of Bambugu. Local contributions of sand, stones, and labor, along with donations from North Americans to pay for roofing materials and cement, made this community-chosen project a reality.
The women of the village celebrated the occasion with a friendly challenge to the men of village: they constructed 12 benches for meeting house seating and the men of the village are now working to match this contribution! Village chief, Momorie Janneh heartily embraced this new dynamic, saying “We now believe that the development of our community is no longer a single responsibility by us men — and our women can also do more than us! We are very happy and many thanks to Christian Extension Services for training us together with our women on leadership skills.”
World Renew and Christian Extension Services are seeing that, as the women and men of communities like Bambugu together accomplish meaningful work, women’s voices are being heard and encouraged.
Daniel Lepp Friesen
World Renew Sierra Leone