Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 November 2017
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs – Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, today Thursday 9th November 2017, hosted the new Ambassador of the United States of America to Sierra Leone, at her ministry’s New Englandville offices.
The Ambassador was accompanied by a high-powered diplomatic delegation, which also included the Head of USAID in Sierra Leone – Ms. Khadijat Mojidi.
The visit which was described by U.S. Ambassador Maria Brewer as a familiarization initial meeting with the Cabinet Minister, was very successful; and covered a wide range of issues including: Empowerment of Rural Women, Gender Equality, the March 2018 Elections, Combating Corruption in Sierra Leone, Caring for Ebola Survivors and the continued strengthening of U.S. Sierra Leone relations.
Minister Blyden was a legal resident in America between November 1996 until November 2002, when she decided to permanently end her residency in America and returned back to contribute to nation-building of her own country, Sierra Leone.
She told the American delegation that the seven years she spent living in America helped to shape her perspective on a lot of issues, and have been very helpful to her in carrying out her work as a Cabinet Minister.
Ambassador Madam Maria Brewer who was doing her second stint in Sierra Leone as a diplomat – her first tenure was in the year 1999, said progressive reforms over the years have brought Sierra Leone to a comfortable place in terms of democratic credentials. She said the United States Government will continue to engage with government officials to ensure the prosperity of Sierra Leone.
The two hours long meeting between Minister Blyden and Ambassador Brewer was punctuated by some solemn moments, when they both recounted the pains of the Civil War and the effects of the recent Ebola Crisis.
But they also shared many happy moments of laughter and hope for the future of Sierra Leone, especially concerning the growth of a formidable corps of empowered women in rural areas of Sierra Leone.
The two women agreed that whilst it was very inspiring and useful to have women like themselves identified and appointed or elected to high office, there was also an important need for the political empowerment of women to start from the grassroots level.
They agreed that to ensure the much desired global empowerment of Sierra Leonean women, it needs a grassroots movement from within, not only the cities and towns but also the rural communities within which the 2015 Population Census indicates that 60% of citizens live.
Such grassroots empowerment will then surge upwards and eventually effect the desired widespread positive change.
Against this backdrop, they commended the USAID funded WELD Project which has women empowerment as its key deliverable.
The U.S. Embassy under former Ambassador Hoover had a good relationship with Minister Blyden. That relationship was harnessed by Minister Blyden one year ago, in order to ensure Ebola Survivors could travel to America on a high profile tour facilitated by the U.S. Government.
Today’s hosting of the new American Ambassador by Minister Blyden ended on a very high note, with lots of smiles and photographs.
Maria E. Brewer most recently served as Deputy Director of the Career Development and Assignments division of the Department of State’s Bureau of Human Resources (2016-2017). Prior to that position, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US. Embassy in Nigeria (2013-2016).
Previously she served as: Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of African Affairs; Management Officer in Islamabad, Pakistan; in Colombo, Sri Lanka; and in Mumbai, India. She has also served as a Special Assistant for the Bureau of Administration and the Under Secretary for Management, and served in the Office of Allowances. She began her Foreign Service career in Lagos, Nigeria, and served her second tour in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
In 2010, Maria received a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy at the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces. She holds a B.A. in Spanish and International Economics from Valparaiso University in Indiana. She is married with one daughter.