Heal The Women Salone

On Saturday 26th August, I supported the director of Heal the Women Salone based in Makeni, to deliver a workshop to her women’s group on Black Feminism and international resistance against patriarchy. This support group was founded by Fatima Turay to allow women in Makeni to unite and openly discuss issues affecting their everyday lives in a society dominated by men. Women in Sierra Leone undergo crisis based around the economic downfall of their resources being exploited, whilst recovering from the scars of the civil war. The women offer each other possible solutions to the problems they face during volatile situations related to domestic stress, as well as the Sierra Leonean police offering a Family Support Unit (FSU) service for women to be able to report severe domestic abuse.

20 inspiring women attended the workshop, aged 17-60. It was positive to witness young women comfortably discussing issues affecting them in the presence of elder women, without any fear of judgement being made. The recognition of the struggle commonly affecting women was inspiring considering the women felt disheartened and let down by their government and the men who had deserted them during difficult circumstances. When reading any of the shared stories below, one must not base a judgement on African communities but understand the result of poverty and lack of economic power whilst understanding resistance against patriarchy works hand in hand with Sierra Leonean women who are directly affected by Capitalist exploitation, being able to resist neo-colonialism.

Many women who were traders felt when they were pregnant their husbands avoided them as though they had a disease. They complained the men in their community wanted to marry rich women to pay their bills and were not interested in women who are poor with daughters. The women concluded this pressure on their value being based on economic status pressured the women in the community living in poverty to turn to prostitution as a way of making ends meet to be economically self-sufficient, especially if the woman already had children.

The women expressed micro-credit, a microfinance investment facility set up in 2004 to support women financially after the war, as biased and unreliable as the women are landed in debt with an interest rate of 500%. Sierra Leonean women are thrown into prison if they do not pay off their debt without any of their personal circumstances being taken into consideration. The women also exclaimed the claim of education being free for Sierra Leonean women as false.

The women of Sierra Leonean families who struggle financially are forced into sex work. If the woman falls pregnant, she adds a burden onto the family already in financial difficulty unable to feed an extra mouth where she is left to bring the child up alone. A student asked for support for young women who want to pursue an education but are forced into prostitution as poverty fails them from having an independent right to an education. Unfortunately, since the rise in tuition fees in England, many female students have resorted to prostitution to pay towards their fees also.

A Sierra Leonean woman spoke of the attitude of men towards Sierra Leonean women due to prostitution being rife within society. The women complained assumptions were made of their lifestyle if they took pride in their appearance, admired Western dress and enjoyed partying. She retold a man in Flamenco bar grabbed her by her hair and asked her how much she costs. The women were concerned that White British African mineral ex-pat workers were responsible for injecting Sierra Leonean sex workers with life-threatening doses of class A drugs, after promising the women a large sum of dollars.

The 50/50 government representation for women was dissected where the women felt only career women involved in politics had the pleasure of enjoying the 50/50 government strategy. The women felt wealthier privileged women in positions in society never came to support or interact with the working class women affected by poverty. The women struggled to raise their voices as some of the men hold restrictions on their voice and level of action but the women were adamant to get the voices of victims heard and not just the voices of wealthy Sierra Leonean women. The women intend on making a documentary to lobby their government to take societal issues affecting them seriously.

Shareefa Panchbhaya

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One Response to Heal The Women Salone

  1. Matthew Blessings Swarray says:

    Please Shareefa i want u to be sending me recent publications on your findings okay.

    Thanks,

    Matthew Blessings Swarray
    Business Officer
    Street Child of Sierra Leone- SCOSL / Action for the Right of Child-ARC

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