20 Sierra Leonean girls mentored on modern Royal Canadian Navy ships

The HMCS Summerside and Muncton Navy ships on 20thMarch, 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth the ll Quay hosted twenty Sierra Leoneans girls from the four regions of the country. The engagement was a step in the right direction especially after the just concluded International Women’s Day Celebration on the 8th of March 2017.

The girls were taken on board and introduced to the crew which were mostly women including the captain. They were then taken on a conducted tour in the Summerset Canadian Navy ship. With different Navy officer explaining their roles and responsibilities the tour was filled with excitement and anxiety for the young girls to take advantage of the opportunity and dream of higher heights. The Assistant Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police Elizabeth Turay Engaged the girls during the tour and answered questions posed to her in her career field. The engagement opened up
a lot of discussion about the police Force and the essence for girls to join in.

Zainab Besmilango was amongst the 20 girls from Kenema district, she expressed her excitement stating that she was born in the neighboring country Guinea due to the eleven year rebel war in Sierra Leone and after two years she was taken to Sierra Leone. She said she lives with her aunty and her father leaves in Australia. “My parent separated shortly after i was born” she says and “I was dreaming to become an engineer”. She feels inspired and extraordinary seeing women working on a ship as navy officers. “I face a lot of challenges like sexual harassment from boys as well as older men but I am determined to be more focused and be somebody in the future that can make a change for my family and my country”.

I am very impressed with the ship’s crew and their different roles and duties especially the women, meeting a woman who is captain of the ship gives me hope to be in leadership position someday she stated..Kadiatu Bah from Kambia district stated that she is the oldest of four children and is also the only child that has completedsecondary school in the family. “I feel well empowered to be amongst the 20 girls of Sierra Leone
to be on the ship” she exclaimed. She says she will inspire others when she goes back to her district as she wants to become an engineer.

“Meeting Canadian women working on board is amazing, I like the lady who is the cook because I like cooking and also I am impressed about the captain” says Kadiatu. This opportunity is an eye opener and motivation for us so that we can take education seriously and pay attention to our studies she added. Before the girls were brought in on board the ship UN Women staffs met with the crew and gave a brief talk of the missions mandate and the work they have been engaged in giving an over view of UN Women’s activities in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment with priority areas on Women Leadership and political participation, Governance, Women Economic Empowerment, Ending Violence against women and girls,Women peace, Security and Humanitarian action.

UN Women Programme Specialist Baindu Massaquoi highlighted challenging issues like teenage pregnancy and child marriage. UN Women is advocating not only to keep girls in school but to retain them added Baindu. Violence against women she went on to say is on the rise and there is need for more pressure and attention to support women from the abuses they go through stating that because of cultural intervention perpetrators are not brought to book for their criminal actions, this she said poses a threat to women’s peace
and security. She explained that out of court settlement courses high rate of rape and sexual abuse.

Officer-In-Charge UN Women Marbey Sartie gave an overview of the benefits for such initiative in bringing the girls on board the Canadian Navy Ships together with the lasting impression the session will have on the minds of the girls in preparing them for leadership positions and the partnership it will create for Canada and Sierra Leone.

female leaders in Sierra Leone to serve as UN Women invited three influential role model and inspiration for the girls, Brigadier Kestoria Kabia of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, assistant Inspector General oft he Sierra Leone Police Elizabeth Turayand Her Worship, the Mayor of the Makeni City Sunkarie Kabba were welcomed On board tomentor the girls and interact with them.

The mentors engaged the girls and explained about the work they do and how they got to that position. Hard work and ambition were the common words on the three female leaders mouth admonishing the girls to be strong and pursue their dreams.

Engaging the girls High Commissioner of Canada to Sierra Leone Heather Cameron says “This month marks the 225th anniversary of the Nova Scotians arriving from Canada and the establishment of Freetown in 1792. She added that this is likely the oldest contact between Canadians and Sub Saharan Africa, and it is an honor to be in Freetown with two Marine Coastal Defense Ships of the Royal Canadian Navy – both of which have sailed to Freetown from Halifax, Nova Scotia.” This celebration marks the relationship between Sierra Leone and Canada

“2017 is also the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, when 4 provinces, including Nova Scotia, voluntarily came together to found a country called Canada. In this 150th year, we are proud to celebrate Canada’s identity; our ethnic, linguistic, cultural and regional diversity; our beautiful environment; and, our rich history and heritage.

Our anniversary Celebrations focus on the themes of diversity and inclusiveness, reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples, youth engagement and leadership, and the environment” she said encouraging the girls to take the opportunity to empower themselves and make the best out of their lives. The commissioner appreciated the mentors by giving them little gifts of appreciation for show casing that women too can do it.

Sylvie Simoneau, Navy Petty Officer first class say she is very excited to be in Sierra Leone as she has heard a lot about the Nova-scotians that earlier came to Sierra Leone. “I feel fulfilled to be here and show girls that empowerment is all they need.

UN Women facilitated the process working with line partnerslike Care International and Girl Child Network with the aim to expose the girls to career opportunitieson mentorship and leadership for women’s Empowerment.

Article: UN Women Sierra Leone Communications / Cecil Nelson