Alimatu Dimonekene, the community activist

Sierra Leone generally makes the international news for all the wrong reasons, particularly when it comes to women’s issues. There is no denying the amount of work still to be done in the area of Sierra Leone’s gender relations. One way that change is arriving is through the rapidly growing number of positive, resourceful women who are leading businesses and organisations that make an impact, as well as leave inspiration in their wake. The women we have talked to for this series are professionalising their respective sectors, and improving the social and business landscape for women and men in Sierra Leone.

How would you describe your job?

I am a community activist and the founder of ProjectACEi. I have three careers which I am passionate about. Being a proud daughter, a mother to three amazing children and working on the issue of violence against women. All these roles are demanding and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being in a position to make a difference in the world is very rewarding.

How did you get into this field?

I got into the field of campaigning because I had a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of other girls and women. Whilst a student at Birkbeck College in London studying Social Policy, I was encouraged to pursue this area. My joint degree in Third World and International Studies with Sociology further increased my passion for women’s rights and gender equality, and was an ideal preparation for the role I’m in today. My experience continues to grow as I collaborate and partner often with other organisations and individuals on projects and initiatives concerned with promoting a world where women and young girls can achieve their dreams.

What would you say are your most significant professional achievements?

Probably the most notable accomplishment was recently contributing to robust reforms, policies and legislation in the United Kingdom around de ned strategies for protecting women and girls from violence and abuse. The meetings which began in in Nov 2012 went on till July 2014. I was awarded Winner of the True Hero Award 2015 for my work in tackling FGM. In December 2015, on behalf of the African Union I co-hosted Youth Delegate Panel discussions at the First Girl Child Summit, held in Lusaka, Zambia. The Youth Panel discussed ways to look at combating Child and Early Marriage and the wider impact on teenage pregnancy globally. My co-host was highly acclaimed Nigerian Actress Omotola J Ekeinde. In order to deliver this aspect of the discussions, I needed to mobilise youth from over 50 countries in Africa. In the end, we delivered a successful summit. I am currently working as a Consultant/Trustee on a project founded by Lisette Mibo Passion For Motherland (PFM). A charity supporting homeless children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is my most challenging role. Ensuring that the homeless children have safe homes this December. I am joining the Team at the PFM Showcase this August as we are aiming to raise enough funds to build the first shelter for homeless children in Kinshasa.

How does your work contribute to Sierra Leone’s economic development?

What my work does is invest in people through effective programmes that boost people’s confidence, empowering women to engage in small medium enterprise as a way of escaping violence and be more independent. My work contributes to economic sustainability by getting girls back to school and reducing illiteracy. The vulnerability of women and young girls as a result of violence, poor health systems, lack of education, access to clean drinking water and poverty has an impact on the long term economic growth of the country. Most women in Sierra Leone work within informal settings.

Who has been your greatest mentor and what did they teach you?

My mother. She taught me at an early age that success comes with determination. But at the same time to always seek to improve the lives of all Sierra Leoneans where ever find myself.

Nominate the HeForShe champion for change who you think has had the most impact to date in Sierra Leone?

I have a long list to choose from but most notable is my father, the epitome of a HeforShe. He taught us as girls that we can be anything we want to be and no one should tell us otherwise. His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who as a child was my neighbour in Freetown. I know he is a very devoted father, husband and brother. I applaud his recent decision to appoint a number of women in his Cabinet which tells me he is definitely a HeforShe- paving the way to have women leading in politics.

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