We left our motel in Kabala at 8:30 a.m., driving for about one hour north on very bumpy roads, shaking us properly through. The bad roads connecting some of the main cities like Makeni and Kabala are one of the reasons the economy is not picking up as quickly as it could. The area around Kabala is rich in fertile soil and cattle farming, but farmers cannot sell their crops transporting them beyond their local markets is a logistical challenge. One can only commute from one town to another with a motorbike or off-road vehicle.
What the locals call a “match-stick tree” because it lights up very quickly when fire is around – by Juli Riegler
When we arrive at our destination, the small village of Musaia, we are welcomed by a group of people singing and dancing. All the schoolchildren are lined up, the girls to the left of the road and the boys to the right. They wave and cheer, their eyes filled with excitement and curiosity.
Warm welcome as we walk together to the local primary school – by Juli Riegler
Cause Canada is UNICEF’s implementing partner in the Koinadugu district, working actively in eight out of 11 chiefdoms to promote education and the empowerment of women. After the wonderful warm welcome and introduction, we get the chance to speak to the mothers’ club that was initiated by UNICEF and implemented by Cause Canada in 2010 in Koinadugu District. Since then, the mothers’ club has been very successful in sensitising the surrounding villages toward education, children’s rights and women’s empowerment. The 23 women don’t necessarily need to be mothers but rather women who have a strong belief in their children’s education, equality and human rights.
The club’s main focus is the education of children living in their community. If children don’t show up at school, representatives of the mothers’ club go and speak to the parents to find out the reason. If a child is not home sick but is working, they will convince the parents to allow the child to go back to school. The club manages its own money and has a designated person overseeing the budget. The money is typically invested in food and school supplies but can also be invested into projects like building water wells or school maintenance. To keep building their financial resources, the mothers also produce agricultural products and sell them so they can reinvest into their children’s education. The club’s work is fully voluntary.
This little girl has lost her mother and is now looked after by women in the mothers’ club, who will take care of her and make sure she goes to the local primary school once she turns six years old.
The women also engage strongly in the rights of the girl child. They fight teenage marriage and pregnancies, which still happen often in Sierra Leone. A couple of years ago, they heard about a girl in town who was to be married to a local policeman. They got highly involved and finally called the police to get the girl back. They managed to stop the marriage.
Children from the local primary school. They carried their school benches outside to be able to welcome us – by Juli Riegler
The mothers’ club also experienced a small scale-up because a neighbouring community followed their example and started their own club. The mothers invited us for lunch in their village. They had cooked perfectly seasoned vegetable rice and prepared fresh meat. They offered us fresh oranges, bananas and the tastiest pineapple I have ever eaten. Once finished eating, they performed a final dance to thank us before saying goodbye.
The women from the mothers’ club had cooked for us and served fresh oranges, bananas and pineapple for dessert. The hospitality of Sierra Leone is wonderful.
The women from the mothers’ club – by Juli Riegler
Today was very inspiring and positive as we got to see how a few women can team up together and—sometimes even against the support of their husbands—drive a lot of change in their society. They are passionate about ensuring high-quality education for their children and protecting them from early marriages and pregnancies so they can complete primary and secondary school, which is not very common in rural parts of Sierra Leone. We met strong individuals who are motivated and constantly plan new projects to increase the quality of living and to create a better future for their children. The mothers’ club impressed us deeply, and I believe this is a wonderful model that will hopefully be copied by many more communities in the future.
Children came running towards us when we visited the newly build primary school in the Wara Wara Yagala chiefdom – by Juli Riegler
About Juli Riegler
Juli is the IKEA Foundation's Digital Communications Manager. Next to managing the IKEA Foundation's website and Facebook account she works closely with Save the Children and UNICEF and IKEA's yearly Soft Toys for Education campaign. She enjoys doing a lot of different sports, travelling and connecting with people from around the world.