My Journey

Mkandeh
Posted September 13, 2015 from United Kingdom

I am the fifth of seven children. My Mother is a house wife and My Dad a retired police man and the local Imam. I grew up in a police barracks in North-western Freetown, Sierra Leone. As the quietest child in the home, I spent most of my time reading novels from pacesetters to mills and boons. If I was not in school or doing household chores, I could be found sitting in some quiet corners reading novels. My Mother was not educated but saw value in education as a means of ending the cycle of poverty. My family was modest. My mother was involved in petty trading and also acquired dressmaking skill, tie and dye making and other crafts just so she could make financial contribution to her home. My Father worked at Statehouse and was greatly inspired by the people in his working environment (civil servants and public administrators) at the president’s office. He wanted all his children to be highly educated. He always say 'No man will treat a highly educated woman badly'.My Mother believed she endured the maltreatment of my Father because she was not educated. 'What was I supposed to do? No education, no money to do business,' she would explain. Myparents were very determined to see us achieved academically.

Abuse of women was and still is common in my community and most other parts of Sierra Leone. Most of the girls in my community could not finished secondary education, most got pregnant and went out of school. Rape and other forms of abuse that endorses gender inequality were and are still widespread. With this reality in mind, I opted to study Mass Communications and became a journalist for a local newspaper. When I started practicing journalism, Sierra Leone was just coming out of war. Women’s issues were not being reported enough in the media. Female journalists were mainly concentrating on soft news story such as ‘relationship advice’ and press conferences. I wanted to change this; I started a column called GenderWatch at the newspaper I worked for. Soon other newspapers followed suit. With other female journalists we formed the Women in the Media Sierra Leone. We advocated for female journalists through discussions, newspaper articles and meetings with media heads.

When I moved to the UK, I realized women here face similar problems as women back home. This situation is especially difficult for migrant women. I started investigating and writing about the issues, using media to raise awareness of the issues they face. As a journalist, I write about the issues facing women in Sierra Leone as well as women in the diaspora. I believe by writing, blogging about these issues, collectively we are raising our voices to authorities responsible for the protection of women. We are also sending a strong message to perpetrators of violence against women that enough is enough.

Since I joined World Pulse my networking and readership have broaden and I am pleased that issues affecting Sierra Leonean women and immigrants women in the UK have reached the World Pulse audience. I took part in the Women weave the web campaign and I was happy to have contributed to such a successful campaign.

The main reason for high teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone is poverty. Most of the young vulnerable girls have to endure the risk of sex for money to provide for their families. Besides journalism, I have been making other contributions to a local community in Freetown. Through the Better Future Foundation, founded by me and my sisters, we have been collecting and sending used clothing, school materials; toys, pencils and books to poor families and school children in and around the Wilberforce community in Freetown.

I believe by breaking the chain of poverty through enhancing education for young girls, we are putting an end to violence against women. A woman who is educated and financially able stands a very low risk of being abused by a man. I envision a world wherein men and women, boys and girls respect each other and treat each other as equal. To end gender inequality, abuse and violence against women, we must first teach children the culture of RESPECT .

Comments 22

Log in or register to post comments
Iram Asif
Sep 14, 2015
Sep 14, 2015

I respect your views.

Keep Shining

Love

iram

Mkandeh
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Many thanks Iram.

Blessings to you too.

Love

Me

Maya Muñoz-Tobón
Sep 14, 2015
Sep 14, 2015

Dear MKandeh,

I am honored to have you here sharing your story with dozens of other women in the Intro to Digitial Empowerment. It is increadible to hear all the brave work you have accomplished as a journalist in Sierra Leone and for immigrant women in the UK. This speaks about how women around the world are facing very similar issues, and women like can give a voice to their stories as well. I hope that you find new and more skills in this training that will enhance your dreams and visions for "a world wherein men and women, boys and girls respect each other and treat each other as equal"

I look forward to keep listening to your voice.

Maya

Mkandeh
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Thanks a million Maya.

I am looking forward to the training to learn new skills to help achieve progress in the lives of desperate women.

Blessings to you and thanks again for taking time to read my journey.

Love

Me

Mukut
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Super impressive Mkandeh. You have done a fabulous job. Your accomplishments prove that you are extrmely hardworking and determined. Keep it up. Here at World Pulse, we constantly look forward to hearing inspiring stories like yours, every day. Thank you for sharing your story here.

Love your passion and commitment.

Love,

Mkandeh
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Thanks for reading Mukut.

Your support inspires me to keep doing what I do.

i appreciate the love on World Pulse.

Love

M

JANEKALU
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

So happy that women are breaking the silent.we must speak out to save the less privilege specially the young girls out there.

Big Hug.

Jane kalu  

Mkandeh
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Thanks Jane and a big YES to your point. We must continue to speak on behalf of the voiceless. We speak for them because we have the platform which they are deprived of. Yes, we represent them.

Thanks for the comments

Love

M

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Sep 17, 2015
Sep 17, 2015

Dearest Kandeh,

You were surely born to bring change in the world. With sich humble backgrounds you have risen to the top. Woow and this is such an inspirational stroy for many young girls back in Sierra Leone. You surely have the rights of marginalised women at heart and the women you represent are blessed to have you at their fore front.

Continue to be the shining star for these women. God bless you.

Mkandeh
Sep 18, 2015
Sep 18, 2015

Many thanks Anita,

I am humbled by your support. You inspire me too.

Blessings

Lisa Alfano
Sep 21, 2015
Sep 21, 2015

Mkandeh,

Your story is inspirational for all women and I so admire your courage to break away and break through the traditional ways women and girls are treated and perceived to be less because of their gender. I found myself wanting to read more about your story and experiences.

Women living in poverty and immigrant women here in USA also face oppression and similar violence as you mentioned happens in Sierra Leone and the UK. You brought to light that violence, oppression, and gender discrimination can and does happen anywhere. You make a valid point that 'by breaking the chain of poverty through enhancing education for young girls, we are putting an end to violence against women.' How is the education wall for girls being torn down in Sierra Leone and for the immigrant women population in the UK?

Which do you think helps promote an end to such violence and oppression- by outside influence from other countries or grassroots work done by the people in Sierra Leone for the women/girls/migrant females who live in Sierra Leone, or a combination?

Thank you for providing a role model for by showing your dedication to expose what is happening and by standing up for what you believe to be right. You inspire me to be a better person and woman and I thank you for sharing your story. In gratitude,

Lisa

Mkandeh
Sep 22, 2015
Sep 22, 2015

Many thanks Lisa,

In Sierra Leone education for girls is seriously challenged by child marriage. Sierra leone has a child marriage prevalence of 44%. Another challeng is teen pregnancy. The Ebola outbreak which led to the closure of schools for a period of 9 months led to a reported 600 teen pregnancy of school going girls. The government refused to accept pregnant girls on the reopening of schools a it believes they may be of a bad influenc to girls not pregnant. Yet to round it all the main culprit is poverty. Widesread poverty is affecting girls in the ways listed above and many others.

Migrant women in the UK are challenged by cultural and other issues including immigration. Blending family life and education with the absence of the support of extended families as it is done in countries of birth have made it difficult for most migrant women to go to college. Also the long wait to get residency papers do prevent. again poverty plays key role here. with te recession and the budget cuts, poor migrant families are feeling the pinch very hard and therefore preventing their chance of studying.

To your last question, I think grassroot work can play the most important role as they understand the issues better. Yet the outside influence is crucial to getting the government to cooperate with the grassroot and also to ensure that violence and oppression end through the implementation of laws. I hope I manage to answer your questions (smile).

Thanks again

Hannah B
Sep 22, 2015
Sep 22, 2015

MS Kandeh,

Thank you so much for sharing your story!  I appreciate your insights about Sierra Leone and especially the local community that you grew up in.

I imagine that you are inspiring many young women from your community to find their voices, tell their stories and connect with one another through the web. 

Do you think that girls and women in your community will have more access to educational opportunities if they have more digital literacy?  

Thank you again for sharing - keep writing! I look forward to seeing what you write next!

Best,

Hannah

Mkandeh
Sep 22, 2015
Sep 22, 2015

Thanks a lot Hannah for your comments.

Yes I believe they will have more access to educational opportunities if they have access to more digital literacy. As you and I know, the benefits of the digital world is immeasurable. However, in Sierra Leone, intermittent power supply and unstable and slow internet access is preventing women and girls access to the numerous opportunities the internet brings.

Blesings 

Julia O
Sep 23, 2015
Sep 23, 2015

Hi Mkandeh, I read your post with so much interest. You are such an inspiration! I loved reading about your family background (especially your mom's belief in education for her children) and how and why you decided to become a journalist. You have already accomplished so much and done so much for your community and country, or rather countries - Sierra Leone and the UK. Thank you so much for sharing. You are clearly making a big difference to the lives of girls and women and it's inspiring to read about. Best wishes, Julia

Mkandeh
Sep 23, 2015
Sep 23, 2015

Many thanks for your comments. I rely on your support.

Blessings

Kristina M
Sep 23, 2015
Sep 23, 2015

Dear MS Kandeh,

Thank you for sharing your inspirational story.  You have already accomplished so much for the communities that you have lived in.  How has the Women in Media group changed things for their communities?  Are their voices being heard and accepted?  Or is there resistance for what they are advocating?

Mkandeh
Sep 23, 2015
Sep 23, 2015

Thanks Kristina.

Sorry I didn't elaborate on that more. Actually they have been very influential. in 2013, they held a protest march to condemn widespread rape in the country. Speakers included government officials who made committment to end rape in the country. despite the challenges, there has been more females in positions of authority in the media since the organization was formed and in 2012 four of its members contested for the first time in the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists elections. even though the attempts were challenging, one of the ladies wa elected as Financial Secretary while others pull significant numbers. For the organization, that was a milestone.

Indeed, their voices are being heard and there has been some form of cooperation from the government and other organization working on similar issues. The main challenge has been coming from some male colleagues who are still stuck in the belief that only men should lead. And this seriously affected the chances of the ladies who contested in that 2012 journalists election. But we will keep the fight to ensure equality no matter the challenge.

My humble self

champagne
Sep 25, 2015
Sep 25, 2015

Hi Mkandeh,

You inspired me by your determination to finished your education. And I really respect your mother, and her belief about education. You've done a good job sister as a journalist, your contribution to your women in your community, your a brave woman.I can see that you can help and inspired more women. Keep up the good work. And I hope even your in UK , you still continue helping women in Sierra Leone.

Regards, Champagne

Mkandeh
Sep 29, 2015
Sep 29, 2015

Hi Champagne,

Thanks a lot for your comments. They are really inspiring. Thanks for your support.

Regards

Mairi-Jane Fox
Feb 08, 2016
Feb 08, 2016

Dear sister,

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our rights as women. I'm so in awe of your Better Future Foundation. And I am especially touched by your work to advocate for immigrant women in the UK. (I am from the UK, but immigrated to the US.) I work with immigrant women in the US right now by teaching English. I wish I could get more involved in supporting their difficult transition away from home and into American culture. Your words have inspired me to find a way!

Please keep it up!

With deep RESPECT,

Mairi-Jane

Mkandeh
Apr 25, 2016
Apr 25, 2016

Hi Mairi-Jane,

Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion. I am happy you are inspired.

Blessings