Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 April 2022:
One of the initially unintentional but now incredibly important consequences of me serving as Mayor of Freetown, our capital city, is the inspiration this provides to many girls and young women across the country.
Over the past four years, I have been humbled by the numerous times that girls and young women have reached out to me privately and at public events to tell me that they believe they can achieve their dreams because they see me and other women in leadership.
Motivated by these girls and young women, I established the YAS Girl’s Leadership Foundation in January this year to enable me to be more intentional about playing my part in inspiring our future female leaders.
On Friday 11th February, the YAS Girls’ Leadership Foundation rolled out its first project; the ”Give Her Wings, Watch Her Fly” school tour. Funded by CIRHT, and in my personal capacity, I am engaging girls on various issues impacting on leadership, the power of female voices and how issues affecting health and mental wellbeing can be addressed.
The first stop in this 6-month school tour cycle was Kambia District where we engaged girls from Kollenten Secondary School, Sunday Girls Foundation Secondary School and the Linda Koroma Secondary School.
The school tour was in Port Loko on 18th March with girls from Schelenker School, Islamic Secondary School and Port Loko Catholic Secondary School. And this Friday 8th April we had an amazing time in Kamakwei with girls from the Wesleyan Secondary School and the SLMB Secondary School.
During the interactive sessions with the girls, I encourage them to express their dreams for the future. And they have big dreams! They want to become lawyers, doctors, teachers, astronomers, accountants, mayors and even presidents!
The discussions then cover the many challenges faced by girls. Consistent issues are early marriage, teenage pregnancy, lack of financial support, sexual harassment, victimization and conflicts between studies and domestic responsibilities.
The sessions reaffirm the commitment of the YAS Girl’s Leadership Foundation to ensure that the women and girls who make up 51% of Sierra Leone’s population, can truly fulfil their potential.
In my talks I proposed that three “Wings” needed to allow our girls to fly are:
– Prioritize your education
– Believe in yourself; and
– Persevere through challenges
Scholarships of Le1 million are then awarded to each of the top performing SS2 students of the participating schools to further motivate the girls. And we all have a great time singing the inspirational words of the theme song led by singer/songwriter Cllr Natasha Beckley of Port Loko City Council!
I am grateful to all the school principals and teachers for their enthusiasm and support. I am also truly grateful to my colleague Mayors and District Council Chairmen who have been excellent hosts and a huge encouragement to me.
But my greatest thanks go to all the amazing girls I have met in the various districts who are so passionate about their futures, about fulfilling their dreams and about making a positive mark on our society. We stand by them.