Project Highlight: Inspiring New Leaders, Sierra Leone
In February 2018, 350 individuals in Sierra Leone were intensively trained by MBBI as peace ambassadors before the national elections. Inspired by an appeal for even more peace training, the MBBI Sierra Leone Project is now dedicated to empowering women and youth leaders throughout that West African country.
Before the 2012 and 2018 general elections, MBBI directly helped prevent electoral violence in four regions. Loretta Raider (Team Leader, USA), Maureen Inglis (Team Member, Australia) and Karen Boxer (Team Member, USA) co-facilitated a series of peacebuiling workshops under the MBBI Train the Trainer Program for their local Sierra Leonian partners.
Through “Building Unity for Peaceful Elections” workshops, Sierra Leonians from diverse backgrounds gained practical dialogue and peacebuilding skills. Interactive activities, such as the “River of Life,” also encouraged political tolerance and appreciation for tribal differences.
Ahmed Morlai Kamara, a trainer and workshop coordinator in Freetown, reflects: “I discovered a lot of divide in my country, especially by color. The workshop was a wonderful experience. As a post-conflict nation, we must be thinking of co-existence.”
With passion and resolve, newly-trained peace ambassadors took effective action in their towns –sharing co-existence messages in local markets and promoting peace in their communities. Many ambassadors spread peace creatively – conducting peace carnivals, leading non-violence campaigns, and even teaching party members about political tolerance.
As a trainer from Bo, Hannah Fatmata Yambasu confirms: “Each time we do a workshop, it brings us closer to people. People don’t realize that you can make meaningful contributions. Each time we have a workshop close to elections, we see positive actions.” She continues, “I saw women actually going out to vote. I didn’t see any violence, or anyone become worrisome. I witnessed that in Bo. The 75 people that we taught were able to disseminate the skills and the message.”
The MBBI Sierra Leone Elections project played an invaluable role in two crucial elections: the 2012 elections marked the first post-war elections without United Nations oversight. The 2018 elections were the first without a United Nations peacekeeping mission present. Interventions by beneficiaries of the MBBI workshops contributed immensely to ensuring both elections remained largely peaceful.
Inspiring New Leaders
Bolstered by such success, the request for peacebuilding workshops in Sierra Leone is high. Local trainers and peace ambassadors agree that more people throughout the country need this training. Listening to their voices, the MBBI team expanded its vision. The new “Building Sustainable Peace in Sierra Leone” project aims to develop strong leaders with conflict management skills. Under its four pillars, the project provides leadership and peacebuilding training to women, youth, and tribal leaders. Under the fourth “train-the-trainer” pillar, the project multiplies conflict transformation principles throughout the country and all levels of society.
Advancing women and youth leaders is especially vital to sustaining the peace in Sierra Leone. Overcoming marginalization, women can become inspirational politicians. Overcoming unemployment, youth can become exceptional community role models. The MBBI Leadership project equips women for political office and empowers youth to enhance their communities. Learn more about the upcoming 2018-2019 Women’s Leadership and Youth Leadership Programs or contact Loretta Raider (email@example.com). Consider investing in the women and youth of Sierra Leone by donating as an individual or organization.
Together, we can enable powerful leaders of peace.
Article by Kayla Elson, MBBI Writer.