GENDER CHAMPION TURNS LOCAL CHIEF
By Advocacy and Communications team
Save the Children Sierra Leone in partnership with Save the Children Korea is implementing the School Me project in 60 schools (30 intervention and 30 controlled) in the Western Rural district from March 2016 to September 2018. The goal of the project is to achieve gender equality in basic education in creating an equitable and empowering environment for girls in the community, school and home. The School Me project supports Families, schools and communities to contribute to increase primary school completion for boys and girls to achieve gender parity and safety in schools.
Photo credited by the School Me team
Chief Yabom Posseh is a single parent living in Yams Farm in the Western Rural district. She was born to a ruling chieftaincy family. Her father sent her brothers to school but refused to educate the girls including Yabom because he did not think it was beneficial to the family for girls to be educated. According to tradition, religion and gender stereotypes, women are not seen as power brokers. This also meant that the chance of a woman becoming a chief was slim if not unlikely.
At 15, Yabom got married to a man who already had two wives. She found it hard to adjust and after a few years the marriage broke down. A few years later, she remarried and had six children before her second husband died. Yabom is a market woman. She uses the profits from her sales to provide for her children’s basic needs and school essentials.
“I am from a very traditional Sierra Leonean home where women are seen as second class citizens. Before being engaged by Save the Children through the School Me project. I had no knowledge about gender issues. Save the Children came into our community in 2016 and started talking to us about gender”
Yabom expressed excitement about learning what this meant and how community members could contribute to behaviour change to reduce incidence of violence against girls and boost education outcomes to benefit both boys and girls in their community. After her participation in a number of meetings and trainings, Yabom joined the core group team, responsible for promoting gender equality in their community.
“As a member of the group, I started teaching children about equality. For example I started sharing the household tasks between the boys and girls at home equally. For example washing dishes was taken in turns. I taught both of them how to cook because I believe these skills are valuable to both of them when they grow up. I believe that men and woman are equal in the sight of God and I will do my best to promote this in my community. As a gender champion in my group, I started encouraging members to meet with our community members and start the conversation on why boys and girls should be treated fairly. That they should have the right to education, to take part in sports; even football and that there is no such thing as a boy being better, or cleverer or more beneficial to a family than a girl.
It was not easy at first. Some people thought this was another “white man: idea. But when we start to explain some of the reasons for some problems in our community and our society as a whole, they are gradually beginning to accept that we need to change our attitude towards boys and girls”.
A key component of the School Me project is creating awareness around issues relating to gender in an effort to ensure that boys and girls stay and complete primary school and learn effectively by providing them with learning sessions using child-friendly approaches to boost reading, writing and numeracy skills. Community members, head teachers and school supervisors are also trained on gender and protection to support and contribute to a safe and enabling environment.
“As a member of the group, I started mainstreaming gender parity among my children as I divided tasks and responsibilities irrespective of their sex. As a freelance gender champion, members of the core group started engaging community structures on gender parity and the need for both boys and girls to be treated fairly.”
- Chief Yabom Posseh
Yabom Posseh is championing the course of women and she is using her position as chief to create a level playing field for men and women, boys and girls. Thanks to School Me, Chief Yabom has gained the confidence to address gender inequality through continuous training and is now working with group members to develop community bye-laws to ensure boys and girls are given an equal chance to education as well as participation in other activities that would help them realise their potential in the Yams Farm community.