President Koroma’s sacking of social welfare minister has left deep wounds

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 November 2017

If president Koroma has been expecting the dust to have settled after his controversial sacking of the country’s social welfare minister – Dr Sylvia Blyden, then today’s press statement issued by the national group representing women in the country – The Women’s Forum, should make him think again.

Women in Sierra Leone make up about 70% of the country’s population. They are expected to play a big role in determining the outcome and complexion of next year’s general and presidential elections.

Today, they are sending a strong and powerful message to president Koroma about the sacking of the most active female minister in his government.

Dr Blyden has been very much vocal in condemning corruption in the government, and has paid a heavy price.

This is the statement published today by the Women’s Forum:

“The Women’s Forum, the National Women’s Umbrella Organization, wish to state that the relieving of duties of the ministers of the ministry of SWGCA on 23rd November 2017, has left the Women’s Forum highly traumatized. We have been “brutally psychosocially affected”. One of the symptoms of trauma is numbness hence our reaction only now.

“The Forum pleaded with His Excellency on International Women’s Day 2016 (March 8th) to fill the vacancies that existed in that ministry with women. Whether we were talking to the converted or not, that was done.

“One was an ex-student of mine from MMCET and the other the Godchild of my late husband. We spent weeks welcoming them at parliament, with banners, songs, etc.

“After six weeks we welcomed them at the ministry with speeches and our humble gifts to both of them. In responding they promised to work together and not to allow history to repeat itself.

The Forum joined Nenneh in Port Loko and Lunsar as she thanked them for electing her as a Local Councillor and supporting her appointment as Deputy Minister. Sylvia lamented that she could not join her as she was greatly involved in the preparation of an International Women’s Conference the following week.

“The two of them were together at that International Conference during which the minister asked her deputy minister to serve as the august Chairperson for the programme. It was so nice to watch the two of them. What had gone wrong between them that ultimately led to the relieving of their duties?

“The Women’s Forum over the years had worked assiduously, relentlessly, untiringly with all the Ministers of that ministry as it is our link ministry. All of these past ministers can testify to this. In as much as they appreciated our efforts none of them had recognized the significant role of the Women’s Forum’s in the national development of Sierra Leone nor had they given us the necessary and dire support to perform that role.

“That support, recognition and appreciation we got from the recent past minister – the Honourable Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.

“Sixty-one percent of the women of Sierra Leone live in the rural areas. Realizing the remarkable roles of these women in the development of our nation. Hon. Dr. Blyden had worked relentlessly with them and the Forum being developmentally oriented, gave her stout support.

“We joined her in the observation of International Women’s Day 2017 all the way in Kailahun, in the remote and distant Kissi Teng chiefdom. The joy on the faces of these women cannot be over emphasised. They were thrilled and happy.

“Women in the North are equally traumatized and shocked by her being sacked. She had worked with the women of the north. Through her initiative we had our national conference in Kamakwie, in the new North West District. This enabled over one hundred women from all the districts to converge and make meaningful decision on women’s political representation on the forth coming elections. We came out with the KARENE DECLARATION of “Women Count, Vote in Women”.

“Even though we have been making requests over the years for scholarships for women of the Forum to go on the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, it was only under the leadership of the past minister that five women of the Forum were given the opportunity to perform their religious obligation to Allah.

“Through her, the Forum benefitted in taking part in High Level International Conferences and also In capacity building on combating violence on women and children from the reputable Masgav Institute in Israel.

“Yes, though a shock to us, we saw it all happening. We tried to mediate by listening to both sides giving pieces of advice, encouraging them to plod on. In reality, the ministry faces a lot of Challenges.

“As we welcome one of us again to that seat – Honourable Isata Kabbia, we pray that the Good Lord from whom power comes, to guide and direct you and for help to build positive interpersonal relationships, which is the backbone/bedrock for effective administration.

“The administration of His Excellency has been gender responsive throughout his tenure of office. We apologize to you our Excellency on behalf of the Women’s Forum’s for whatever has led to the relieving of the duties of our sisters.”

Maude R. Peacock
Women’s Forum Sierra Leone

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