Unleashing Girl Power: A teenage take on Women’s Empowerment

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By Aminata Benk- Sankoh

On Tuesday, September 5 and 6, I walked into the sprawling edifice of probably our capital city’s finest infrastructure, the fifteen-storey tall Freetown City Council building. It was shortly after 8:30 a.m., and there was a beehive of activity at the lobby and the entrance to the elevator. With a click and within a few seconds, we were on the fourth floor- the area that hosts the auditorium and my rendezvous for the next two days.

The Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) Executive Director was invited to attend the “Breaking Barriers: Female Leaders Conference 2023,” organized by SEND Sierra Leone, a local NGO. 

As the newest kid on the block at CGG, my boss, Mr Sahr Kendema, had sent me the invite and asked that I attend the two-day National Conference designed to unite and empower all elected female parliamentarians, Councilors, Chairpersons/-Mayors, Deputies, and influential personalities.

The atmosphere at the event was nothing short of inspiring. It radiated empowerment as women in governance and their dedicated allies gathered.

The room was filled with solidarity, with every participant passionately supporting one another’s journey towards women’s empowerment. Conversations echoed with wisdom and determination, painting a vivid picture of a collective effort to break down barriers and advance gender equality. It was a vibrant and uplifting gathering that left a lasting impression on me.

Since then, as a teenager and a student of Political Science, I have been thinking of nothing but women’s empowerment. It might sound like a fancy term, but it’s all about girl power, and it’s totally rad! It isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a way of life.

Picture this: You’re a teenage girl navigating through the crazy turbulence of life, dealing with school, friends, family, relationships, and, well, a million other things. It can get overwhelming, right? We’re not just surviving; we’re thriving! That’s where women’s empowerment comes into play. 

Being a girl is awesome. We’ve got endless potential and can conquer anything we set our minds to, one of our most essential God-given gifts.

One of the coolest things about women’s empowerment is that it’s all about supporting and uplifting each other. We’re not in competition; we’re in collaboration. That means celebrating our achievements, no matter how big or small, and encouraging other girls to do the same. Together, we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Education is one of our secret weapons. With quality education, we become inspiring, powerful, unstoppable and a threat to the other gender (in a good way). It opens doors, smashes glass ceilings, and helps us take control of our lives and society.

So, think again if you’re thinking about ditching those textbooks, dropping out of school or college, and not bagging that degree! Ladies, let’s soak up all that knowledge and use it to change the world.

Let’s talk about role models for a second. They can be our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, lawyers, scientists, artists, athletes, or even everyday people doing extraordinary things. We can be those role models, too.

My all-time inspiration and motivator is the Iron Lady, gender equality advocate and the first Gender Director at the Office of National Security, Mrs Sia Wango Alhassan-Kabia, my mother. 

She’s gracefully worked through the “man’s world” over the years while nurturing two beautiful children without fright and is still making a mark in her career. I’ve been so inspired by her courage and her resilience that there’s not a day I wake up not wanting to walk in her shoes, notwithstanding the fact she is always on my case, and even at the time of writing, we have a mini domestic row, and daddy has insisted that I call for dialogue (laugh). 

My dear friend, Chiamaka Ibemessie, a one-time Head Girl of The International School Limited Secondary, former President of the Interact Club of Sierra Leone, and a current Honors 1 Law student at Fourah Bay College, has also inspired me. She may be small in frame, but her not-too-broad shoulders have carried the weight of numerous accolades, and she still excels in her academic field. 

Beyond Chiamaka, and my mum is a woman I have never met, but her name precedes her. She is Dr Kadie Sesay, a former politician, feminist, pro-democracy advocate, former Minister, and was running mate for a leading political party in the country. This woman has championed local campaigns for more women to participate in politics. If her success story doesn’t make you work hard, I don’t know what will.

As women, we face challenges that seem impossible to overcome, but let’s not forget that we’re tough cookies, and resilience is our middle name. Every setback is just a stepping stone to success, and when life throws curveballs, remember, we’ve got this!

It’s essential to speak up and use our voices. Whether it’s about gender equality, climate change, or any other cause close to your heart, your opinions matter. Your voice can create ripples of change that turn into waves.

We all saw how our women fought for gender equality by ensuring the enactment of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act 2022,

Therefore, we should not be afraid to be loud and proud! Let’s fight against the limitations and stereotypes that women do not belong in societal decision-making positions. Women must not spend their entire lives in the kitchen or just raising children. Women can be ministers and not just deputies or permanent secretaries. They can be National Coordinators and not just positions related to gender advocacy. 

When we break free from limitations and stereotypes, we’re not just empowering ourselves but paving the way for future generations of strong, confident girls.

As teenage girls, we can shape our destiny and make a difference. Let’s embrace our girl power, support each other and show the world that we’re unstoppable forces of nature. Malala Yousafzai once said, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”

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