I am proud to be a peace ambassador

Date: Friday, December 28, 2018

Sella Esther Sowa Photo UN Women Cecil Nelson
Sella Esther Sowa Photo UN Women Cecil Nelson

 

Sella Esther Sowa 42, is a mother of four with three girls and a boy. She has been married for 15 years to Foday Sowa. She try’s to support her parents who lives in Kenema and also 3 of her sister’s children with the profit she makes from selling food stuffs and vegetables. Her family has been going through a lot of challenging times. But what actually got her worried was a dispute for a piece of land that caused two of her brothers to be at loggerheads for years. She couldn’t go to college after finishing her school because of lack of financial support.

 

“This family feud caused my mother to fall sick with hypertension and is most times hospitalized. I became worried as a lot of threats and confrontations were becoming a way of life for us. I knew something had to be done but how, was the question. I thought because I was a woman I was not in a position to interfere but I knew I had a share and couldn’t speak as woman are not allowed to own lands. So during the 2017 elections campaigns, some boys attacked my brother Salieu Bangura’s house pelting stones and smashing the windows. It was suspected that my younger brother, Brima Bangura was responsible for the attack. As my house was next to Salieu’s house, the invaders run through my outside kitchen and capsized the pot of soup that I was cooking. I was petrified and run inside with my 3 girls who were also with me. Since that incidence we were always scared especially for our lives. Before this time we were not scared to cook outside or stay outdoors late but from the threats of some unknown boys I had to even move house just to feel safe.

 

II heard about UN Women from a friend called Sallay Dumbuya, we used to do business together. She told me about a training that was coming up on the 25 of September 2018 in Kenema District in the Eastern province of Sierra Leone for female peace ambassadors. I expressed interest and that was how I attended my first training with UN Women. I was trained together with 25 women to have self-confidence and integrity as a woman to believe that women too can be heard and make great impact in politics and peace building. The capacity building training took us through prevention, mediation and peacebuilding. The objectives of the trainings were to identify the critical barriers that restricts or limits the participation of women in the peace building process, develop concrete actions and tools on early warning response mechanism in their communities and to help train on how to resolve and mediate conflict within their various chiefdom and communities. The activity was done in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs. The training highlighted the roles and responsibilities of women in society with early warning signs detections and gaining more skills for women to be in politics.

 

Numerous challenges were highlighted such as lack of security, intimidation, abuse of rights, financial constraints, problem with the awarding of symbols, more men in delegate position and discrimination. We were trained to overcome the challenges we face by increasing our self-esteem, standing up to sexual harassment and the essence of being a role model.

A focus group discussion guide was developed to help facilitate the discussion which also helped to guide radio program discussions looking at the causes of female under representation in public life and the elements that support women in sustaining them in leadership position and peace processes.

We must be united and work for a common goal to take leadership positions and be active in keeping peace in our community. Before now I was unable to speak out and avoided issues of mediation issues. After the training I called a family meeting were there were ongoing discussion of land. I thank God for UN Women who gave me the temerity to speak. I want to start planting cassava and other vegetables, so I can improve my income. It helped me to be very much assertive in my decision making or judgment between two women who had a bitter argument about land that we were using. I am proud to be a peace ambassador, I want women to believe that they too can make a change as ambassadors of peace. I want to get involved in decision making in my community.”

Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality