First Female Town Chief Crowned

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Chieftaincy in any form and shape in the Northern province of Sierra Leone is a taboo for women. Many women have faced a lot of challenges for the past decades when it comes to chieftaincy or public elections in the country, thus most women have been marginalized.

The trend has started changing over the years; women are now holding positions of trust in that part of the country. Last year in Heremakono section, Wara Wara chiefdom, Mbalia Koroma, chairlady of Peace Mothers was appointed the first acting female section chief. This success is in part due to Fambul Tok’s intensive sensitization  and training programs on women rights and responsibilities in the North.

Cecilia Kanu pic

Cecilia Kanu

Recently, the people of Masongbo village, Makari Gbanti chiefdom, Bombali district, Northern Sierra Leone unanimously appointed the very first female town chief since the inception of the village. Cecelia Kanu, an adviser in the Peace Mothers group in Masongbo section went unopposed and was crowned, thus entering the guinness book of records for being the first female town chief in Masongbo.

Cecelia elevation to that  position was also a result of her dedication and commitment to advocate for more women to be involved in decision making processes. Her clarion call has started yielding fruits!

In an interview in her village, she says she believes in the emancipation of women. “This is just the beginning, I have the conviction that in a not too distant future women are expected to become Paramount chiefs in the north like in the east and south of Sierra Leone,” she emphasizes.

Madam Kanu is also the headmistress of the Roman Catholic Primary School in Masonbo village and is very active Peace Mother. She is  54 and married with four children.

Posted in Bombali District, From the Ground: Program Updates from Sierra Leone, Updates by District | Leave a comment

Upper Bambara Peace Mothers Empowered

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Lilian Morsay addresses Peace mothers

Lilian addresses Peace Mothers

On Tuesday June 17, 2014, in continuation of its support to Peace Mothers in the country, Fambul Tok International-Sierra Leone donated a brand new rice mill and officially opened the Peace Mothers information kiosk in Siama village, Bambara section, Upper Bambara chiefdom, Kailahun district.

In a brief but very impressive relinquishing ceremonies, Fambul Tok Program Officer, Lilian Morsay underscored the importance of women working together to develop their communities. She said the handing over of the rice mill and kiosk was as a result of Peace Mothers’ hard work and commitment, adding that Fambul Tok operates in five of the six sections in the chiefdom.


Program Officer hands over machine to Peace Mothers in Siama

Morsay encouraged women to continue to work in the spirit of unity and development. She cautioned them to make good use of the items. Morsay went on to disclose important documents made available at the kiosk, such as the three gender acts and child rights act, local government act, and other reading materials, calling on the whole chiefdom to make use of the kiosk.

The Program Officer also said the machine is not only for Bambara section. She stated other sections would have access to it, requesting for the formation of a special committee to oversee the day to day function of the machine.

Chairlady of the Peace Mothers in Bambara section, Agnes Fatorma, could not hold back her tears as she burst into jubilation for Fambul Tok and its partners for empowering  women in the country.

inside view of the information kiosk

Inside view of the information kiosk

Town chief of Siama, Musa Moiforay, also cautioned women to take great care of the items. The occasion was concluded with a traditional dance.


Posted in From the Ground: Program Updates from Sierra Leone, Kailahun District, Peace Mothers, Updates by District | Tagged | Leave a comment

Stories from Bombali

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Excerpts from Fambul Tok Volunteer Sara Waldheim’s blog, Around the World with Sara. Follow her adventures here.

Secret Society Dancing

Secret Society student dancers

On May 31 I attended my first School Bonfire & Oral History Presentation at Panlap Community Junior Secondary School in Bombali District.

Fambul Tok is now in five schools in each of the six districts where they are active and have established Peace Clubs in each of these schools. As part of the sensitization surrounding the history of the war for the students and the whole community, Fambul Tok is holding bonfires and oral history presentations in all of their schools.

The first activity at the bonfire was a bonding football match between members of the school and two students from the nearby School for the Blind. After the match the bonfire ceremony began with introductions of the attending dignitaries including Paramount Chief Massalye.  His attendance was quite a triumph for Fambul Tok and shows the importance and success of the program.

There were many activities that took place during the bonfire. A young boy acting as an old man gave the oral history. He was outstanding in his delivery. Dancers representing the secret societies performed for us. A skit, showing some of the atrocities of the war, was presented.

Peace Mothers meeting

Peace Mothers discuss next steps

The next two activities with Fambul Tok revolved around Peace Mother meetings. The first meeting took place in the Masongbo Section, Masongbo Village.  This section earned a casava grinding machine as part of the “walk side by side” system of rewarding sections who show great initiative and capabilities. In this case, the section has a very large casava farm and needs the grinder to preserve the casava for future sales. The purpose of this meeting is to give guidance about planning for the use of the machine.  Joseph, team leader of the Fambul Tok District Staff, kicked off the meeting by establishing the purpose of the machine and giving suggestions of how the community can use the machine economically.

The next Peace Mother meeting was held in Masabong Section, Makanie Village.  The purpose of this meeting was similar to the first one, except this village was presented with a rice-milling machine as a reward for success with their rice farming.

This is was third visit to this sectional meeting of the Peace Mothers.  This is the section that has a very successful revolving loan scheme started in 2011 with 750,000SLL. A scant three years later they now have 17,000,000SLL in their account and all the villages in the section have begun businesses using the revolving loan.

Posted in Bombali District, Peace Mothers, Student Clubs, Education, Updates by District | Leave a comment

“Fambul Tok Day” Declared in Kono

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Since Fambul Tok kicked off its community reconciliation process in Sierra Leone, several clarion calls have been made on government by various people, including traditional leaders, to declare March 23 of every year a day of national reflection. Held on the anniversary of the start of the war, March 23rd, if  recognized by government, would encourage every Sierra Leonean to sit back and reflect on what happened during the country’s decade-long conflict and how everyone must work to ensure such a virulent war does not reoccur.

For the past few years, Fambul Tok has organized various events on March 23 in communities across Sierra Leone. In one such program orchestrated by Fambul Tok, student peacemakers added their voice to this year’s commemoration of March 23rd, calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to declare the day a national day of reflection day, not simply a public holiday.

Chief Morsay(right) embraces Komba during oral history night

Chief Morsay (right) embraces Komba during oral history night

On Friday, May 23rd, 2014, traditional leaders in Dangbaidu section, Sandor chiefdom, Kono district declared May 23rd  ”Fambul Tok Day.” Prior to the declaration, the Tefeya Junior Secondary School prepared to host a quiz and oral history night (bonfire) for the student peacemakers. When the Section Chief and other traditional leaders heard about the proposed event, Chief Sahr Rodney Morsay appealed to teacher peace-coordinators and Fambul Tok staff members for the events to be held in an open place so the entire community could partake. After consultations with others, it was declared that all parents, guardians, and community members spend the day in Tefeya, not only to honor that day, but also participate in the events one way or the other.

After the quiz competition, the community stakeholders who attended said they were so impressed with the kids and emphasized that it was the very first time they had witnessed such an educative forum.

In the night during the oral history, stakeholders informed students how the war started, how it escalated, and how it ended. Questions were posed and students were cautioned not to be involved in violence, but instead help in the peacebuilding and reconciliation process in the country.

After the event, Town chief of Tefeya, Komba Kassadeh urged elders and community members to stay and witness what he referred to as, “their own bon fire.” He called on everyone who had hurt his or her fellow community member to apologize in the spirit of reconciliation.

First to testify was Sahr Komba Mani, a strong supporter of Kai Ansumana Babonjo, who contested with Kassadeh for the town chieftaincy election Tefeya. Sahr told the gathering that he had problem with chief Kassadeh during the electioneering process. On behalf of Babonjo, who was absent, Sahr asked for forgiveness for all that he did to chief Kassadeh.

In his remarks, Chief Kassadeh accepted the apology and said his then opponent was his brother and now that the electioneering process was over, they should put all hands on deck to work together. He called on anyone he had hurt during the discharge of his duties to have mercy on him. Sahr and Kassadeh, who were now on good terms, embraced each other.

Other members who had wronged each other used the occasion to reconcile.

Upon Babonjo’s arrival, he was informed about the reconciliation process that occured during his absence. Without wasting time, he visited Chief Kassadeh and dined with him that morning.

Posted in Reflections, Student Clubs, Education | Tagged | Leave a comment

Information Kiosks Inaugurated in Nimiyama and Gbense Chiefdoms

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One of the major challenges affecting rural communities in Sierra Leone is access to quality information. What often goes wrong in these communities is attributed to the lack of accurate, correct, and timely legal information. Over the years, Fambul Tok has observed that there is no locations in rural communities where people can access  accurate and timely information whenever the need arise. Most people, to a great extent, depend on” hear-say”, or what is referred to in Sierra Leone as bush radio.

Deputy Mayor declares open the kiosk in Condama

Deputy Mayor declares open the kiosk in Condama

When laws are enacted by the government of Sierra Leone, a major hurdle is figuring out how to ensure that rural villagers and illiterate people understand what the law entails. Many protocols and procedures are required by the government, but many people do not understand understand them or know their importance. Because of this detrimental lack of access to legal information, Fambul Tok International-Sierra Leone, has deemed it fit to open information kiosks in various sections and chiefdoms in Fambul Tok operational areas. The first set of information kiosks were developed in Nimiyama and Gbense Chiefdoms in Kono District, Eastern Sierra Leone.

some of the items on display

Some items on display in the kiosk

Executive Director of Fambul Tok International-Sierra Leone, John Caulker, underscored the importance of the information kiosks in his brief statement during the Peace Mothers dialogue prior to the official inauguration ceremony on May 13, 2014 at Condama town in Nimiyama chiefdom. John Caulker said Fambul Tok continues to create space for Peace Mothers to interact, to identify major challenges, and to involve stakeholders in the development processes.

front view of Bayakor peace mothers kiosk

Front view of Bayakor Peace Mothers kiosk

John Caulker stated that the information kiosks would go a long way to ensure Peace Mothers and other community members have access to quality information materials. He said the kiosks will be furnished with TVs, radio sets, DVDs, generators, and reading materials, especially regarding the gender laws and the Child’s Rights Act. Furthermore, educational posters concerning the Gender Acts and other important laws will be available for the use of the entire section and chiefdom. He discloses that the maintenance cost for the kiosks was provided to the two chiefdoms, adding that other district are expected to benefit.

The Executive Director encouraged people to use the kiosks to gather information regarding registration of customary marriages, births, and other materials available to fast track these processes. Additionally he cautioned for the judicious utilization of the items, stressing that they should be used as their own property.

On behalf of the three chair-ladies of the various sections in the chiefdom, Kumba Yarjah extended thanks and appreciation to Fambul Tok, the US Government, and other philanthropists that continue to support women, especially the Peace Mothers of Sierra Leone.

ED address peace mothers in Faada

John Caulker address Peace Mothers in Faada

Officially opening the kiosks in Condama town and Faada town, Deputy Mayor of Koidu New Sembehun City Council, Madam Theresa Sia Gbenda highlights major challenges women continue to face, focusing on access to information. She says most women do not know  the existence of gender laws, explaining that Fambul Tok is the only organization that is addressing this issue through the Peace Mothers program.

She confirms the Council’s support of women, adding that it reduced the cost for registration of customary marriage to a minimum fee of 50,000 Leones. She also called on Peace Mothers to make use of the kiosks and asked Fambul Tok to facilitate the process of registering marriages and birth in communities with the provision of vehicles or human resources when the need arises.

Posted in From the Ground: Program Updates from Sierra Leone, Kono District, Organization, Peace Mothers | Tagged | Leave a comment