CHEERS TO 5 YEARS- THE MAKING OF POWER WOMEN 232

Thank you for growing from strength to strength, and for demonstrating excellence. Let me break down my definition of excellence. From the outside, I see that you share leadership with rotating chair positions; I see that you give one another the opportunity to shine by handing the mic over and spotlighting the greatness of each individual in the collective, I see that you hold leadership retreats; I see that you stand by one another. In each of these instances, I witness the work it takes to move the collective together – forward as one. From the outside, it is delightful to watch because you show us that it is possible. Now, I can imagine that it isn’t always glorious, which is why your collective success and input pack into our society makes it all worth it.-Fatou Wurie

How many times do you feel inspired by a conversation; one that causes sparks of inspiration to fly within but then you wake up the next day and do nothing about it.
Like so many of us a group of Sierra Leonean women were invited to a meeting in February 2014 with Evelyn Oputu, the former Managing Director of Bank of Industry in Nigeria by the then Gender Adviser to the President, Madam Naasu Fofanah. Later on that year, The 50/50 Group and Isha Johansen organized a symposium on empowering women, Manja Kargbo and Yeniva Sisay were further motivated to take the lead and start a collective for greatness.
This went on to trigger what is said to be one of the biggest collaborations of women leaders, who have decided to own their power. The vision was engrained in action after been challenged and called out by Ms. Oputu who shared about her ‘Circle of Women’ who met regularly to socialize, do good and do business. This challenge was met squarely and built upon to create a historical collective, framed by individual personalities; each with its own unique style but with intent to inspire, lead and engage.




STOP THINKING AND START DOING

PowerWomen 232 (the area code for Sierra Leone) was born on the onset of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which destroyed families and communities.

When the Ebola virus went out of control, Yeniva Sisay created a WhatsApp group, at first, it was to share information but a week into starting the group, suggestions were made that something must be done. PW232 members, did not want to sit on the side lines, they decided to take action. A proposal was written to support health care workers with care packages. The intent was to submit the proposal to donors for funding, but PowerWomen members decided that wasn’t the route they wanted to take. They felt that they should collaborate with Sierra Leoneans across the country to show appreciation to the health care workers who were putting their lives on the line to save the country. They partnered with Radio Democracy 98.1 through Asmaa James (a power woman); the Radio Station Manager recently listed on BBC 100 Women 2019.

The initial call for donations of food items wasn’t successful. Members then decided that they needed to show commitment, each member made a donation; some went further and asked family and friends to contribute. This morphed into the supermarket drive where hundreds of ordinary citizens came out and made contributions. It was powerful to see the outpouring of support.

OWN IT

As a network, they try to bring professional women and entrepreneurs together to promote career advancement and development in all fields, through networking, leadership development, social events and community projects.
In August 2016, they collaborated with Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone to launch ‘ASPIRE’ a mentorship program for secondary school girls from various schools in Freetown.
The program was in the form of large group workshops, small group mentorship and experiential field trips focusing on 3 C’s – Communication, Community Development, and Career Exploration.
The aim was to directly impact the lives of 30 young Sierra Leonean girls by providing them with the skills, resources, and networks to become leaders and change agents in their communities.
All 14 PowerWomen mentors were assigned to 3-4 girls each; they were matched by specialized questionnaires in hope to create best-fit relationships. Each power woman played a big sister role spanning a yearlong of camaraderie.
2017-2019, brought more challenges and opportunities as their community service component focused on health and hygiene for teenage/adolescent girls. PowerWomen 232 so far has visited numerous schools in rural and urban Freetown.

During their interactions with girls, they have had open conversations about sensitive and unspoken topics in our cultural settings like menstrual hygiene, which mostly hampers their right to education and affects their social wellbeing. At every talk the highlight has been distribution of their Power Hygiene Packs which contain; sanitary pads, deodorant, hand sanitizer, shaving stick, soap, lip balm and other essentials. As a reference guide, a health and hygiene booklet donated by UNICEF is also part of the hygiene pack. This project has been supported by UNFPA.

MAKE IT BETTER

In August 2015, PowerWomen 232 led a March/Vigil to voice anger over the high incidences of rape and sexual assault against women across Sierra Leone, following the alleged murder and rape of a young woman, Hannah Bockarie. This, till date, is one of the biggest collaboration of women networks and organisations across Sierra Leone. The protest was featured in major news channels and print media across the world, which led to arrests and a murder trial which is still ongoing. It was a vivid example that it is possible to have women working together for the good of all. They have gone on to work with other organisations such as The Girls Empowerment Summit, The Survivor Dream Project, STEM Women, Femme Collective and 50/50 Group among others.

On December 22nd 2015 the network launched ‘The Conversations With Series’ with United Nations under Secretary General, Madam Zainab Bangura as their inaugural speaker. Over the past 4 years, they have gone on to showcase many other Sierra Leonean personalities who are radical about living their best lives and making a mark in society.

The Conversations With Series, aims to enrich the lives of the audience member and presents Sierra Leoneans a first-hand opportunity to meet with personalities who have successfully climbed the career ladder and are happy to share their experiences in an effort to help others.

SHOW IT OFF

What started as a fundraiser geared towards raising funds for community projects has transformed into a highly anticipated business event attracting high profile leaders from all works of life and guest speakers of the highest caliber – Mrs. Iyabo Masha (IMF Representative), Anita Erskine (Ghanian – TV Host & Producer), Ms. Aina Moore (MD- Ecobank : the only Female Bank Managing Director in Sierra Leone) and Bukky Karibi- Whyte ( PR Guru, Founder of Robert Taylor Media).

The PowerWomen 232’s NETWORTH BALL is a personification of ‘YOUR NETWORK IS YOUR NETWORTH’ showcasing the best of Sierra Leonean talents in media, storytelling, event creation, decoration, designing, fine dining, make up artistry and styling. It has evolved into a hub where business owners create meaningful connections with the public.

PowerWomen 232 has been five years in the making, they have become recognized both nationally and internationally winning great accolades, gaining recognition and improving communities. They have started new businesses and they seat on boards making formidable decisions across the world. The PowerWomen are highly respected in their fields of choice ranging from professional careers to multiple ventures in entrepreneurship. Each member being a star reveling in their own light, from owning inspiring businesses to been sought after speakers, doctors, education consultants, public relation gurus, writers, lawyers, logistic experts, creatives, innovators and change makers.

During their 5th year Celebration at their 4th Annual Networth Ball , The PowerWomen honoured 5 Powerful Sierra Leonean Women:

  1. Naasu Fofanah- Gender Activist

  2. Fatmata Sorie- Barrister & Solicitor

  3. Emerica Karefa- Kargbo- Entrepreneur & Chairman Board of Directors of STACO Insurance (SL) Ltd

  4. Yakama Manty– Jones- Senior Government Official, Philanthropist & Entrepreneur

  5. Lara Taylor- Pearce – Auditor General of the Republic of Sierra Leone

Alitta Ansu- Katta, outgoing PW232 President said that ‘As an organization, we believe in self-advancement and promotion of careers, we inspire one another to be great in our individual professional and personal journeys. We celebrate the achievement of members, share our networks, encourage members to build their capacities and provide a safe environment where they can share weaknesses for improvement. We have succeeded in establishing a strong healthy and professional relationship binding one another for a lifetime’.

Written by: arianadiaries

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