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Empowering Sierra Leonean Girls to Change the World

Before establishing GESSL, Moiyattu described her experiences where she visited Sierra Leone and volunteered at workshops in schools for young girls in Ghana, Sierra Leone and the United States. “I noticed the girls would always sit

Before establishing GESSL, Moiyattu described her experiences where she visited Sierra Leone and volunteered at workshops in schools for young girls in Ghana, Sierra Leone and the United States. “I noticed the girls would always sit in the back, as if they didn’t have a voice. I knew I wanted to give them a voice. I saw that the minute you tap into girls and told them that they mattered, their eyes lit up and they begin to do incredible things”.

Founder of GESSL, Moiyattu Banya

Founder of GESSL, Moiyattu Banya (photo credit: TB Photography)

After meeting Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Prize honoree, who insisted that Moiyattu take her passion and talents back to her home continent, Moiyattu took a position in Ghana.  She worked for an organization that focused on educating and empowering women in West Africa, where she worked for two years as a Senior Program Officer. She started the GESSL journey in 2012 during her holidays in Sierra Leone.

 

Moiyattu describes her vision for GESSL as “Being able to see GESSL girls in boards rooms, starting up business, and changing the face of Sierra Leone in the future. We nurture girls to be leaders.” GESSL works with girls with ages 11-17 years for about four to five years.

Creating Change Agents in Sierra Leone

GESSL has worked with about 150 girls and believes heavily in community work. Every year, GESSL encourages girls to identify an issue and think of ways to solve it. In addition to the year round leadership and mentorship workshops it hosts for girls, GESSL has so far supported two community projects that were identified by the GESSL girls. Moiyattu emphasizes that although GESSL leadership provided some support, the girls were able to come up with strategies and execute their projects on their own which showed off their creative thinking skills.

Photo GESSL 2015

Photo GESSL 2015

A school cleaning project within St. Josephs Elementary School was identified as a project and was supported by GESSL. The girls were able to mobilize eighty students to participate in the school cleaning and fundraise money to buy cleaning supplies, which GESSL was able to financially match. The project was a success and has now become an ongoing project which has been adopted by the school.

 

Annually, GESSL hosts a three day summit that focuses on recruiting girls ages 11-17 years old to be a part of GESSL. The summit also includes a series of workshops, seminars led by professionals and mentors from Sierra Leone and the Diaspora in December. Topics that are covered include: Public speaking, Budgeting, Community development, Feminism, and identifying Sexual Abuse. “By the time the summit is over, everyone is crying” Moiyattu says. Moiyattu particularly sets the summit to occur in December since schools are not in session and people from the Diaspora are able to volunteer their time while on vacation.

Photo credit GESSL 2015

Photo credit GESSL 2015

 

“Heart Workers”- The GESSL Team

Moiyattu attributes her success to the GESSL team which comprise of professionals and volunteers from the Diaspora to Sierra Leone. She talks about her advice to future social entrepreneurs and points out that building the right team is critical for an organization.

She refers to herself and her team as heart workers. She truly believes in this term as she believes, “having a “big heart” is essential in empowering young girls to achieve their goals”. Her team is made up of volunteers who devote their time to help young women achieve their goals.Without a team, you can’t go anywhere” Moiyattu says, “My team members have one thing in common, they see through the “feminist lens” they all share feminist values and believe they have to nurture young girls to live up to their fullest potential.”

Discussing  the importance of Africans in Diaspora being involved in her work, Moiyattu replies, Invest in us, partner with us, share our story.”

 

We applaud the work that Moiyattu and GESSL does. Please check out GESSL at www.girlsempowermentsummitsl.org and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more information about their work and how to help out.

Check out GESSL’s upcoming event Co-Sponsored event in NYC on October 6th at the Microsoft Flagship Office. More details on their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ijeoma’s interests include Black female empowerment, health disparities and racial inequities. She is currently a PhD student at Montclair State University and her research focus is on addressing racial disparities in health care. She also loves Jesus and Oreos
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