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Sierra Leone

‘I needed to prove that a woman has what it takes to lead’ – Mahiteh (27) on being the first woman to be elected as leader of her community

Mahiteh Forfanah is proud. At only 27 years of age, she has become the first ever woman to be elected as leader of her village, Madora, in the Port Loko district of Sierra Leone.

53 Mahiteh Forfanah fetches water to drink from the water well in the community Photo: Edward Kamara/Trócaire 53 Mahiteh Forfanah fetches water to drink from the water well in the community Photo: Edward Kamara/Trócaire

Like many women in Sierra Leone, Mahiteh was excluded from decision making because of her gender. She had no access to land or property, and no financial independence.

Mahiteh always believed that her community deserved better, families could be healthier, and girls could go to school.

Women taking up leadership roles in Sierra Leone from Trocaire on Vimeo.

Trócaire partner Center for Democracy and Human Rights brought the “Living Peace Methodology” (LPM) to Madora to promote harmony and equality in the household and community. The programme is part of the EU CSO LA programme which supports 197 community-based organisations in Sierra Leone.

As part of the process, women were trained in public speaking.
“I needed to show the community and young girls that a woman has what it takes to lead,” says Mahiteh.

“They taught us a lot of things. That as a woman you should not be at the back. They taught us to have the courage to stand for head woman or for president. We should not be afraid to run for positions.”

Mahiteh said that since she was elected, she has been able to bring development to the town. “We built a fence and a gate for the well and we now have clean water to drink and no longer have to go to the river to fetch drinking water,” Mahiteh said.

The project has also improved relations between husbands and wives, with women becoming more involved in household decision making.
Mahiteh’s husband Ibrahim said he is proud that his wife is leading the town.
“The peace I am now experiencing in my household is because of the LPM (Live in Peace Methodology) training introduced by Trócaire,” he said.

Another participant, Abdul Koroma, said that the project has taught him how to share household chores. “Now if my wife does the cooking, I will do the dishes and sweeping. When my wife is doing business, I give her support. If I go to the farm, my wife stays home and conducts her business. Previously, I used to make all the decisions at home without her consent or considering her opinion but now we discuss together before a decision is made. We discuss how to use money in the home.”

Trócaire partner, Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR is a civil society organisation. It was funded for this programme by the European Union’s Civil Society and Local authorities grant programme.

This case study is produced with financial support from the European Union through the CSO/LA project co-funded by Trócaire and implemented by Action for Advocacy and Development (AAD-SL), Community Action to Restore Lives (CARL), Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR) in Port Loko District. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Trócaire and partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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