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Sisterhood And Mentorship In Sierra Leone: The Importance Of Raising African Girls In Feminist Spaces

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Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
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In order for the feminist movement to continue we must intentionally build relationships with the next generation of women. The process of inter-generational relationship building is one that intrigues me the most. I have seen this type of relationship building happen in many spaces. My most direct experience has been in my organization Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone (GESSL). GESSL is a year round program, which seeks to inspire, empower and enlighten Sierra Leonean girls. Our organization enhances the leadership skills of young girls through workshops and community development projects that are held throughout the year by young female mentors . Our goal is to empower a new generation of Sierra Leonean female leaders. Our areas of priority are leadership and self-development, health, mentorship, community action, and technology and innovation. Our annual summit brings over 50 girls together in an effort to help them grow in these areas, build peer to peer relationships and build long-lasting relationships with female mentors. The organization operates from feminist and youth development values. Since 2012 GESSL has hosted workshops year round for girls ages 12-17 in Freetown, around the areas of self development and leadership, community development, technology and innovation and mentorship and an annual summit.  The girls also have to implement a joint community service project every year, where they are hands on involved in solving community issues in their local school communities. The last piece of our programmatic area mentorship is what I would like to expand on in this article.


Mentorship is very critical to myself as well as for the work that I do with girls in Sierra Leone. I have been blessed to have some amazing female mentors who have guided me, advised me and provided opportunities for me to advance in my career. After conducting a baseline assessment in the organization, we learnt that most of our girls didn’t have mentors outside of women in their family and in their school community.  What makes it difficult at times is there are private things that they may not feel comfortable talking to their mother, sister or teachers about. What we aimed to then do is provide an additional support network for our girls through our organization. Precisely this is what the mentorship arm of GESSL seeks to do. We pair our girls with Sierra Leonean female professionals who have robust life and career experiences and match them based on various needs. Over the course of the year we create spaces and opportunities for our mentors to interact with our girls during workshops that we call “sister circles” where the girls feel free to talk about school, life, career paths etc. We intentionally make these spaces informal so that the girls can build relationships with their mentors and see them as big sisters.


Ultimately our goal with our mentorship program is to see growth in our girls and for them to to always have a direct contact to seek support from as they develop into young adults and as they transition into University. As our program launches officially this year I can’t wait to see the relationships that will continue to be built , and the inter-generational advice that the mentors will give to the girls as well as what the mentors will learn from the girls. Inter-generational relationship building is so critical for girls and young women, and having women who can guide them is just as critical. A Forbes article[1] in 2012 highlighted the importance of mentorship for young African American girls in the United States, I believe such relationships are just as critical on the African continent for girls and young women, to grow, thrive and soar to be the women they are destined to be.


For more information on GESSL visit our website at  follow our work on our Facebook, Instagram and Instagram pages.


 Moiyattu Banya is the Founder and Director, Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone & Founder Women Change Africa


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