As part of the lined up activities to commemorate International Women’s Day 2021, Christian Lawyers Centre hereinafter refers to as LEGAL LINK has 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 Olyinka 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 emphasised 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 unlawfully detained by the State beyond the constitutional period required by law.
For these reasons combined with the seriousness she placed on the International Women’s Day event, she explained of how she had endeavored to honor the invitation even though she was currently bereaved.
Speaking from an experienced background as one of the longest serving female activists in Sierra Leone, Dr. Blyden said women are deserving of significant places in society but advised that we must not compromise in choosing female leaders for top positions in society based only on gender sentiments.
She emphasised that “we should choose a woman as a leader based on merits and not because it’s women’s time” adding, “Let’s carefully look for a better leader regardless of his or her gender”.
She imparted the audience with 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 amongst others.
According to Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, when you choose a leader that lacks compassion for humanity or one who is a fool or one who is so tense in addressing issues, then rather than bringing joy and happiness that kind of leader will cause that society and its people to 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 parliamentary speakership positions in the country.
She empirically confirmed that women are less corrupt in society than men and therefore would serve better than the men in these three positions if given the chance.
He 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 cryptically 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 Bylden for honoring 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 lavished his admiration by confessing that he had never seen such an outstanding woman in Sierra Leone who has been so resilient and daring 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”.
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 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.
The forum urgent the need for better inclusion of women in governance and decision making institutions; need to provide micro financing support for women to boost their economic status and livelihoods; need to provide scholarships to female students in technical courses in the University of Sierra Leone to foster economic independence of women; need to address the issue of domestic violence in a bid to protect women in the domestic arena; and need to provide health support and health education to women in Sierra Leone to help save their lives and children.