Women in West Africa “Profoundly Eager” for Female Leadership

October 12, 2016

The majority of groups working in under-developed communities around the world agree that women empowerment is the key to progress. As our work has evolved in West Africa, we have become more intentional with engaging women. In countries where being a widow can often mean being doomed to destitution, it’s especially important that women have the means to take care of their families.

On our last visit to Sierra Leone, we celebrated and encouraged women in the form of two special events. One was a women’s conference held primarily for the Baptist Pastors Wives Association of Sierra Leone, a group of about 50 women who traveled to Lunsar from all over the country. We were honored that they asked Just Hope founder Karen Bruton to speak, as well as Ashley Turner, the wife of our president, Ben Turner.

Ashley Turner shares her story

Ashley Turner shares her story with women from the Baptist Pastors Wives Association of Sierra Leone

The conference theme was “Encouraging Women.” The focus of the morning session was on personal stories.

“Since Ashley and I were meeting these women for the first time, we knew it was important to share our stories and testimonies with them, to open our hearts and encourage women to do the same,” said Karen.

Women from across Sierra Leone gather

Women from across Sierra Leone gather for encouragement and sharing.

In the afternoon, Ashley asked the women to break into small groups, share their stories and write any burdens they carried on an index card. Everyone then moved outdoors and circled around a bonfire, singing praises to the Lord. The women then moved forward and cast their burdens into the fire – an expression that they were forgiven of their sins, and that the Lord had lifted their burdens from their hearts.

The women cast their burdens, written on index cards, into the fire to symbolize forgiveness and the Lord lifting their burdens.

Click here to read Ashley’s personal account of the day.

The other wonderfully executed event during our trip was a set of two trainings in groundnut agriculture, led by Jenneh Lassayo, one of our Farmer Advocates in Bauya. The first training she conducted for about 25 women from villages in the Bauya area. The second she conducted as part of the women’s conference in Lunsar, which inspired the leader of the Khailoi Women’s Empowerment Association for Sustainable Development to exclaim, “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen!” – after which she implored Just Hope to bring the training to the eastern district of Kenema, where her group is headquartered.

Jenneh leads a groundnut training.

Jenneh leads a groundnut training.

David Reeves, our Agriculture Program Manager, said Jenneh did a truly amazing job, and was able to apply what she has learned from conservation agriculture to groundnut farming, with very little assistance from him.

“The women in these areas are profoundly eager for female leadership, and they are highly receptive to Jenneh,” he said. “She has the leadership skills and the teaching abilities to do this job extraordinarily well.”

Learn more about our work to empower remarkable women around the world:

Survival Skills Program in Panama

Women learn sewing, find hope and position in Sierra Leone

Hero Spotlight: Jenneh Lassayo, a Mentor to Women Farmers

Just Hope Hero: Pastor Sullay and the Ebola Widows

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