For the third consecutive year, JobSearch sponsored the Women Mean Business (WMB) Entrepreneurial & Leadership Honors event, which is a professional development event geared to inspire young and emerging female entrepreneurs. This annual event was created by Ajara Bomah and Roselynn Lewis to commemorate International Women's Day. The last two were held in USA and this year they brought it home, to Sierra Leone.
The honorees this year were Anita Erskine (Legendary Award), Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr (Innovator Award), Randa Swaid (Trailblazer Award) and Kumba Blessing Dugba (Ingenue Award). Each woman inspired the audience in her own way and I left feeling like I was a part of something special.
I was asked to speak about the importance of International Women's Day to African women and to share why JobSearch supports events like WMB. After thanking Ajara for asking me to speak, I informed the audience that I had told Ajara she is not allowed to take this event back to USA and the women in the room concurred.
The body of my statement was as follows:
"I'll tell you a short story and share some information about myself which should put it into context.
A friend of mine turned 40 recently and a few months later we were chatting when she said "life really does begin at 40. I have realised that I have to live life for me and not society, as long as I'm not hurting anyone in the process; I have learned I have to say no instead of giving in to pressure." Then she stopped and said "but you realised that a long time ago. You've been living your life as you wish for years" and I said "yes, that's me."
I'm an Aries. I used to have a very sharp tongue and regret the hurt I'd caused moments later. I made a conscious effort to stop and think before speaking.
My greatest fears are jail and rape.
What does all that tell you about me? I like to be in control - of my thoughts, my words, my deeds, my body.
I can't imagine what some women have to go through; being told what they can and can't do or say or wear, being subjected to domestic violence or sexual assault, being forced to marry when they don't want to, to a person they may not even know or like, being told they can't have an abortion or an education. To me, it's simply unimaginable.
And that's why I feel International Women's Day is necessary for us here in Africa, for us to talk about our issues and try to solve them, by being involved in policy development and women's empowerment. So much needs to be done, and when people like Ajara come up with initiatives such as this, I will support them because it's a cause close to my heart.
I will leave you with an edited version of my quote for this event last year "We must overcome our fears and live our dreams, because with hard work we can do anything we want. We must support our sisters, because one woman's success is a victory for all women. We must show our girls it is possible for women to be successful in whatever we choose to do; they need more positive examples."