Map of Sierra Leone

Transforming Lives

Two community health workers

With no new reported cases of Ebola, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared West Africa free of the deadly disease on Jan. 14, 2016—a day of joy and celebration for the region. In Sierra Leone alone, nearly 4,000 people had died during the latest outbreak of Ebola—a devastating toll for a country still struggling with the after-effects of a prolonged rebel war.


women realize their rights in rural Sierra Leone
Sayon Mansaray, a social worker and former teacher in Koinadugu.
USAID Sierra Leone


As in most parts of rural Sierra Leone, women in Kabala , Koinadugu district feel the impact of poverty disproportionately with customary laws and widely held cultural and social  beliefs acting as significant barriers to women’s full integration in decision -  making sphere at the household, community and national levels.

Saio Mansaray, 42, is a social worker and former teacher in Kabala. A married mother with two children, she is also a participant in the USAID-funded Women Empowered for Leadership and Development (WELD) project. Since its inception in September 2014; WELD has conducted leadership and mentorship   training sessions across operational areas.  Women participants including traditional leaders and councilors, learned advocacy and leadership skills from January 2016 through to December 2016.

After two years of repeated meetings and training on issues affecting the rights of women, Saio and other women have acquired the skills and knowledge on how to be bold and speak in public to advocate for women’s right and actively participate in decision making process. Traditional leaders and councilors (male Champions) have also received training on their roles and responsibilities to increase women’s participation in decision making. They were educated on the importance of women realizing their rights and the tremendous benefits female participation and involvement in community decision making would bring.They were also shown how granting land inheritance and ownership to women would positively influence family income, as women can freely engage in farming and selling farm produce to increase household earnings.

According to Saio, she now has the confidence and has practiced and applied the skills she acquired during the training sessions to engage authorities on Women’s issues and speak to large crowds of women and men to educate them on their rights and advocate for delivery of services. “Now, a new dawn begins to unfold for the women and girls in Kabala, Koinadugu district,” says Saio. “It was a taboo here for a woman to inherit or purchase land, or even rent a house in her own name, stand for a political position or speak in meetings. Today, I thank the WELD project   and the American people for giving me this opportunity Right now; I'm not only a political aspirant, but also a land and livestock owner. We are grateful to USAID.”

The Women Empowered for Leadership and Development project, which runs from September 2014 to September 2017, is designed to increase women’s political social and economic rights in Sierra Leone.  WELD has reached out to 3.8 million Sierra Leoneans.

Last updated: December 10, 2019

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