By Desmond Jones
The Women Situation Room Sierra Leone (WSR) has trained students from different colleges in the country and women’s groups on how to ensure the forth coming national elections in Sierra Leone are peaceful.
Giving the mission statement for the WSR, at the conference hall of UN Women, Aberdeen Road, Freetown, the establishment coordinator for the Angie Brooks International Centre and Foundation Chairperson of the WSR, Yvette Chesson-Wureh, said the WSR is a peace process where in women and youth work together to ensure elections are held peacefully.
She said WSR uses three objectives to maintain elections peacefully, which are the mobilization of the youths, meeting with stakeholders and their intervention to find solutions to problems that arise before, during and after elections.
She further maintained that WSR started in Liberia, during the 2011 elections won by Elen Johnson Sirleaf. She said the elections of Liberia were peacefully held because of the role played by the women in the Situation Room.
She said the successes achieved by WSR encouraged the African Union to accredit the Situation Room as one of the best peace policies in the continent. She further added that this made the G Mark women of the African Union to suggest President Elen Johnson Sirleaf to serve as the champion of the Situation Room.
She said the WSR was invited to operate in Senegal during that country’s elections in February this year, and because of what they did during the electoral process, Makie Sal visited the Situation Room immediately he won the election.
She called on the women of Sierra Leone to prove themselves competent as peace builders.
She further said that women are the mothers of the youth that perpetrate violence and the wives of the men that influenced the youth to be violent during elections; as a result they know how to deal with them most appropriately.
She added that, that was why they have chosen to first start with the students, who are the literate once in the youth community.
Speaking to her audience on the importance of women, the Coordinating Consultant for WSR in Sierra Leone, Babra Bangura, said women form the most powerful component of every society, but most women do not realize they are talented and blessed with potentials because they believed they are just to be seen in the kitchen.
She said if the women of Sierra Leone choose to tell their husbands and children to give peace a chance, she said the November 17 elections of Sierra Leone would be the most peaceful experience of the country.
She noted that women are the people that suffer the most in every violent outbreak in all parts of the world. She said this was because women are weak and old, while the men and the youths are strong and young; hence they can runaway in times of upheaval.
She admonished her fellow women to be part of the peace process and support the work of WSR, regardless of their tribes, regions, occupations and political affiliations.
Speaking to the students, Ms Bangura advised them to serve as peace ambassadors, by being law abiding. She further encouraged them to teach their colleagues in their various tertiary institutions what they have learnt.
She said the students are the most admired in the youthful community, adding that if they are willing to coordinate peaceful elections campaign during this election the forth coming elections of Sierra Leone will be peaceful.
She said WSR has not made any mistake in their decision to first train the students.
Buttressing Ms Banguraa on the importance of women, The National Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Market Women’s Association, Miss Marie Bob Kandeh, cited the roles played by women during the NPRC military regime as one of the key contributions that returned Sierra Leone to democratic civilian rule.
She said in 1991, Haja Marie Turay of Kenema, was a stark illiterate that took the paper which writes the views of the women of this country to the Bintumani conference, saying “the women of this country wants nothing but peace’’.
She further said that the women of Sierra Leone also assumed the role of journalists by giving information to clandestine radio 98.1 FM of the ill actions of the rebels in 1996 from different parts of Sierra Leone.
She asked if women were able to create necessary impact to the country’s development during the war, then what about now when the country is peaceful?
She said targeting the students is a very good move made by WSR; pointing out that in 1977 Hindolo Trye (now late) and his student union colleagues challenged the one party undemocratic rule of the then APC government and in 1997 condemned the AFRC coup. She said students are very important in the peace process.
A onetime President for the YWCA, former chairperson of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and presently the Dean of the Faculty of Arts Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Dr. Bernadette Cole, said she is happy about the move made by WSR to train women from various societies ranging from grassroots, and students from various colleges.
She commended the WSR for the initiative and further stated she had learnt a lot.
The Public Relations Officer of the University of Sierra Leone, Ms Lola Aforo, said WSR contacted her for the college students and she discussed with the various college authorities and they welcomed the idea. She described it as a great initiative, as students need the training very badly.
Ms Aforo said she is excited and confirmed that the students will engage stakeholders in debates and the media in order to ensure the elections are held peacefully.
The President of Bai Burreh Hall of FBC, Alimamy Koroma, described the move made by WSR to be a great opportunity given to students to play a key role to ensure peaceful elections in Sierra Leone come November.
He said as students they feel honored to be part of WSR peace process, and they are going to use the opportunity to showcase to the world what good the students of Sierra Leone can offer to the forth coming elections. As law students, she said they are starting their own contribution to the exercise immediately by simplifying the electoral laws for the understanding of the grass root.
Another Law student of FBC, Wilbry John, said she is excited about the idea, stating that it is an improvement to the peace Sierra Leone as a country has enjoyed after the war.
She said it is an intelligent move made by WSR to train women and students as they suffer the most in the case of any violent outbreak.
She said they as college students are going to take up the responsibility to sensitize people on the importance of peace in any society.