Starting Off In Sierra Leone With Song

Catalyst for Peace and Fambul Tok opened our first global learning event outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, today — or rather, the Peace Mothers of Fambul Tok, gathered from across the country, sang the event open from just after sunrise, a beautiful and joyous gesture of gathering that called everyone together for the day.

Throughout the day, the crowd of more than 80 people, gathered from 15 countries and doing work in even more places than that, heard from many speakers — Chief Minister Professor David J. Francis; Francess Alghali, the Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office, and Anthony Brewah, the Minister of Planning and Rural Development; John Caulker, the executive director of Fambul Tok, and Libby Hoffman, the president of Catalyst for Peace.

John Caulker, executive director, Fambul Tok (photo by Tom Saater/copyright Catalyst for Peace)

The Hon. Francess Alghali, minister of state in the vice president’s office (l) and Libby Hoffman, president of Catalyst for Peace (r). (photo by Tom Saater/copyright Catalyst for Peace)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Lillian Morsay and the Peace Mothers captured the spirit of the meeting with power and presence. 

Lillian Morsay, national coordinator of the Peace Mothers Groups (photo by Tom Saater/copyright Catalyst for Peace)

“Our aim for these women is to create a formidable space for them to sit down, talk about issues pertaining to women-issues, create a space again for women to participate in community development in their own community. We have women, substantial women, not only in the urban centers but also in the rural area. Even though these women are not educated, as people normally say, let me tell you, these women….they are great women. They can do great exploits, if they are given the chance and the space,” Lillian said.

She introduced 25 Peace Mothers who’d traveled from the far corners of the country to share their stories with the gathering. Here are a pieces of those stories:

  • “I lost my husband, I lost my daddy, I lost my mummy inside this Ebola. I was lonely, until Fambul Tok coming.” The work of the Community Welfare Mediation Community got the wheels turning again — literally. The group decided to mobilize the community to buy a bicycle, so that pregnant women could have a ride to the health facility, so far away, and give birth safely — a powerful choice in the wake of a disease where women giving birth were often died from neglect by fearful health professionals.
  • “Fambul Tok encouraged us to work as unit; we started demobilizing members of our communities. We held a series of community meetings and we decided to embark on small scale community projects. Before that time, we were in a state of chaos. Everyone was just as hot-tempered after Ebola.” But together, the found a way forward with another small-scale community project: a health center, for women and children, so that no one had to travel 110 kilometers to the nearest clinic, especially after such a vicious Ebola outbreak. They did ground nut business, gari business. They saved, and saved. “We mobilized our men, our community members, and they supported us. The idea Fambul Tok brought for us was, we must push on. We are able to solve our own problem. We are able to put up the foundation.”
  • “Before Fambul Tok entered our community, I thought I was no one. I was a dropout from school…and I was abandoned by my family because of the man who dropped me out of school. After Fambul Tok formed a group, they said I should be the chair person. That was the first meeting I attended in my life. In our community, the men don’t allow women to attend meetings. But after giving my speech, everybody clapped. I spoke for the very first time, and people accepted it. I felt proud. I feel so important now.”

As Libby pointed out at the close of the day, it’s a process of invitation — of people seeing leadership, creativity, and good ideas in each other, and inviting that out, again and again.

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