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As Lucy Gondor Re-elected President of KWiGN:

‘The only answer to our problems is working harder’

February 21, 2017 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Lucy C. F. Gondor has been unanimously re-elected President of the Kailahun Women in Governance Network (KWiGN) at the network’s Annual Reflections Meeting (ARM) on Valentine’s Day 14th February 2017 at the Kailahun District Youth Council Hall, Luawa, Kailahun.

The former teacher polled 23 out of the 24 delegate votes.

Lucy, who was first elected in 2013, will now lead the organization for the next two years, which will cover the forthcoming National Parliamentary, District Council and Presidential Elections in March 2018.

The former school teacher, and wife of the Paramount Chief of Upper Bambara Chiefdom PC Gondor, dedicated her re-election victory to all the women of the network, Kailahun District and Sierra Leone as a whole.

“This victory is a victory for all women, and I congratulate all of you,” said Lucy with humility.

To her colleagues who were also elected into new positions she had this to say: “Your new positions come with additional responsibilities, commitment and sacrifice. The only solution to our problems is working harder as a team.”

Before her re-election, Lucy catalogued her achievements and challenges in her first term in office. She recalled that one of the first things she did as President of KWIGN was to visit all 14 chiefdoms in the District and held talks with Zonal Executives to have a fair understanding of the people she would be working with and what their strengths and challenges were.

Under her leadership she said KWiGN has been recognized far and wide for their sustained advocacy on behalf of the women and girls of Kailahun District and Sierra Leone.

She talked about the economic empowerment of the vast majority of women through the provision of micro-finance. Over 3000 women across 11 chiefdoms in Kailahun are benefiting from the scheme.

She also talked about political empowerment with Kailahun District boasting 12 women councilors and two female Members of Parliament, and women occupying leadership positions in the District Council and its various committees.

In the area of access to justice, she said through their sustained advocacy the district now has a resident magistrate. She highlighted partnership with political parties and traditional leaders, and the institution of bye-laws to protect girls and women against SGBV cases (which had been rampant in the district).

In the area of management of finance, accountability and transparency, she said the network now has an account with the Credit Union and Ecobank and these accounts are audited regularly.

She further mentioned about support they provided to Ebola survivors and orphans, some of whom have been adopted by members of the network.

Other notable achievements included the professional development of members of the network who can now boldly speak in public gatherings and contribute meaningfully in essential dialogues, weekly radio programs educating people on gender and women issues, and advocacy activities at both local and national levels.

Lucy noted she would not have achieved all these and more without the full support and commitment of her Executive and supporting partners, traditional leaders, the Police and the media.

However, she said cultural and religious norms, which limit women’s role to the kitchen and home to serve their husbands, still pose a threat to their vision of achieving equality for women at all levels.

“In this age our men still have reserved roles for women which always keep them in the back seat. This mindset has to change,” said Lucy.

Other challenges she mentioned included personality conflict among women, the Pull Her Down syndrome and disunity among women during national elections, tribalism, very poor road network across the district hindering their smooth movement from chiefdom to chiefdom, poor internet connectivity and mobile network, and lack of adequate funding to support their programs.

Also re-elected with the same votes tally as Lucy’s was the Secretary General, Theresa Satta Garber. Theresa said the reward for good work is always positive.

“This is a manifestation of the trust and confidence reposed on us by our colleague women,” she said proudly.

The ARM was witnessed by supporting partners Christian Aid Sierra Leone and SEND Sierra Leone, traditional and religious leaders, the Police and representatives of Civil Society Organisations.

Country Director for Christian Aid Sierra Leone, Jeanne Kamara, said she has seen the journey of the network and the growth that has taken place, and ‘it makes me proud and privileged to be part of all this’.

She said KWiGN is an exemplary project that must be emulated by other regions.

“95% of the world’s resources are controlled by only 5% of the people. Poverty is man-made and that is because we are greedy. If resources are distributed fairly and evenly then poverty will not be as widespread as it is today,” said Jeanne.

She admonished the network to begin to move towards self-sustainability.

“Look around you for the resources and start moving away from dependency on donor funding. These funds are not there forever. So sustainability is a key. But there are so many resources you can pull together if you look around yourselves and your communities. Resources don’t always have to be finance only,” advised Jeanne.

She added: “You have achieved great things in the space of five years, but there’s more work to be done. We (Christian Aid) will accompany you on this journey.”

The Country Director of SEND Sierra Leone, the organization behind the formation of KWiGN, said they are proud as Kailahun is the only district with a well-organised grassroots women group fighting for justice and equality for all.

“For the past five years, the Kailahun Women in Governance Network has achieved more than enough. The existence of the Network itself is one of them. So we have a lot to say about success, but what kind of success is it? Where do we want to be? Are we there yet? Certainly not!  We have a long way to go,” said Joseph Ayamga, adding that they must reach out to the “70% of women who live in the rural villages who are subjected to cultural and traditional practices that rob them of their dignity to live responsive and responsible lives to contribute to the progress of a responsive and responsible nation”.

Joseph said there are still many women out there who are not productively engaged.

“They work so hard and benefit less from their labour. They take care of children and shape their attitudes, principles and values, but who are often less appreciated and celebrated for their contributions. Their efforts hold our society together and make it peaceful, but they are considered less powerful. And so as you travel across rural communities in Kailahun, you see that the woman has the face of poverty. She bears the burden of this unequal society.  So how come that these women who add so much value to society are not valued as such? Inequality and marginalization is unacceptable in a responsible society,” he said.

In the 2007 national elections Kailahun District elected seven women as Councillors; in 2012 the number rose to 12 and two Members of Parliament. In 2018 the women of Kailahun are aspiring to make it rhyme with 18 Councilors and eight MPs.

And their slogan now is: 18-8-2018.