SPEECH BY DR. SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN
Distinguished Guest Speaker at the Prize-Giving Ceremony of the
Providence International High School in Freetown
Friday April 8th 2011
Proprietor & Members of the Board of Directors,
Principal & Teachers,
Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen,
Pupils of Providence International High School,
I am highly privileged to stand here today as your Guest Speaker for today’s event. As a woman who is widely believed to be one of Sierra Leone’s inspirational Role Models, I am regularly called upon to give speeches and I have given quite a few this year already but this one today here is particularly important to me because I understand that this school is one of the few co-educational High Schools in Sierra Leone that has more girls than boys in attendance. What a powerful school indeed! It is no secret that I am an advocate of not only the equality of rights for women as for men but for the right to education of the girl child to be a sacrosanct right. Many Sierra Leonean women have advocated for such rights for the Girl Child and these women would have their names engraved into the annals of History; written into this country’s History books for their greatness in this direction. If even they have showed poor judgment in other areas, we will always recognise their role in promoting the education of the girl child.
However, we surely need to do more to inspire our young girls and encourage them some more to not only stay in schools until they finish their education but to also ensure we lift up their self-confidence in themselves as being just as capable as the boys and men they will be educated alongside. This is why, although today my message is going out to all the young boys and girls of the Providence International High School, it will be specially focussed to inspire the upcoming ladies who will be taking over to run Sierra Leone as the next Generation of Sierra Leonean leaders.
Boys and Girls of the Providence International High School, you have the potential to be anything you want to be in this world. There is no one in this world who was born to be a failure. Only you can make yourself a failure by the choices you make in life.
In the same way, no one in this world has the potential to make you feel inferior except yourself. I want to urge each and every student here today to learn to be self-confident but at the same time, never you look down on another person because the person is poorer than you or in a situation of misfortune. Life can be full of ups and downs but what we should never lose is our commonality that makes us all human beings.
Let me recount to you some powerful lesson-shapers in my life. When I was going to primary school, at some point my Dad lost his job and it was a time of financial difficulties for the family so much so that we had to go to school with old uniforms; sometimes my friends would laugh at me but with the inspiration of a certain school teacher who told me what mattered was not the clothes on my back but the quality of my character, I never allowed that to reduce my self-worth. At the end of the school term, with my old uniforms, it was I who would go home to my parents with my School Report Card showing FIRST POSITION! Despite I had the old uniforms and scuffed shoes and they had the brand new uniforms, I would always score 1st position in school showing that poverty is not a limit to anyone’s ability to be a success in life. As time went on, things became financially stable for my family and by the time I attended University, I had my own personal car at the age of 17 years and my own provisions store I operated. However, the experience of knowing how it felt to be the poor one in class, has always stayed with me throughout my life until this time and so with my relative success in life, I will never look down on another person in this life no matter what his status.
Now boys and girls of Providence International High school, I want you all to look on each other as from today as being equal to one another. The rich students and the poor students are all equal. The clever student and the not so clever student are all equal and no one is more than the other.
Most importantly, I want the Boys to look at the Girls and know today that the girls enjoy the same rights as you under God, under the Laws of humanity and under the Sierra Leone Constitution. Just as no student should ever look down on another student because he is richer or cleverer than that student, so also should no Boy ever believe that because he has muscles more than a female, he is superior to her.
As Evangelist Kwame Coker recently sang, Women are Special People. Indeed, women are special in many senses such as only women can give birth to children in addition to our other God given rights. But again, let me point out that no woman, except the Virgin Mary, can give birth without being first impregnated by a man. So, although the two genders have different special functions, as you can see, each of them needs the other to continue the act of procreation, continue the existence of the human race and populate the Earth. Therefore, no man is better than a woman and no woman is better than a man. No boy is better than a girl and no girl is better than a boy.
The Male and Female Gender are both equals in terms of brain-power and it is from this schooling level that we have to start to appreciate and understand the values of respecting each other’s gender.
All the boys here are going to one day become grown up men contributing to the society in positive ways. They will become Lawyers, Doctors, Journalists, Teachers, Soldiers, Police officers, Judges, etc., etc. and it is from right here that they have to start to inculcate respect for the women in their community. It is from right here the Providence International High School that all of you Boys are going to start to imbibe the traditional values of respect for women that we have in Sierra Leone. If now or in the future, you ever want to discriminate against a woman or you ever want to insult a woman simply because of her gender, I want you to always remember this Special Prize-Giving Day and recall what Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden said to you.
Dr. Sylvia Blyden is saying to you today that Every Single Man of good upbringing recognises that a Woman has the same potential in this world as he does. I want all the young men here today to repeat the following after me please. Just the boys please. No girls.
A Woman is as valuable as a Man. A Girl is as valuable as a Boy. I am a decent boy who will be a decent Man. I will never insult a woman because I am a decent Man. I will never discriminate against a woman.
Please do not ever forget this message or this teaching today. Decent Men never use their muscles against a woman and decent men never insult a woman because of her gender.
Now, to the young ladies. You are indeed my special focus. It is no secret that everywhere I go in Sierra Leone, from Kabala to Bonthe and from Kailahun to Freetown, I stand out as a woman to be admired and showcased. This did not happen by accident. It has come about through consistently showing that my feminine gender will not allow me to be limited in what I can achieve. Today, I am telling you that each one of you here can be another Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and you can achieve even more than I have achieved as long as you are not limited in your faith that you have the ability. The Holy Bible says faith as small as a little seed can move mountains. The only thing limiting you from your dreams will be lack of faith and lack of self-confidence.
As you grow up and even now at your tender ages, you young girls are going to meet up with people who are going to try to bring you down for no other reason than because you are a Girl or a Woman. These people will not try to bring you down if you were a boy or a Man. However, today, I want you to always remember that if other Women have achieved greatness despite the obstacles of certain men, then you can also achieve the same greatness as them.
Young girls, as a trained medical doctor, I can assure you today that the Brain of a Woman is no less powerful than the brain of a man. We have the same quality of intellect as the Men. If it is on issues concerning intellectualism, Women are just as capable as men. When I was in primary school, I used to score higher marks than all the boys in my class. And I am sure there are girls here who are regularly scoring higher points than the boys. This already shows you from this tender age that Girls are just as capable as Boys to achieve greatness.
It is now the turn of the girls to repeat after me. I want the Girls here present today to always remember this day and what Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden said to them. Please all the nice young ladies should now repeat after me:
Women have the same Potential as Men. Women have the same kind of Brains as Men. Girls are not less in quality than Boys. Girls are just as Smart as Boys. A woman can be a Lawyer. A Woman can be a Doctor. A woman can be Head of the Police. A woman can be Head of the Judiciary. A Woman can be Head of State. A Woman can be President of Sierra Leone because Women are just as capable as men.
Young Ladies, do not ever forget this message today. Whatever a man can do with his brains, a woman can also do the same. Whatever a man can achieve, a woman can also achieve. This is the reason why I am sure there are many potential leaders amongst all the girls here today. So, be inspired! You can do it. You can do anything! You can be anything you want to be because this world is yours. It belongs to all of you here today. However, even as you grab the world and enjoy it to the fullest, do not ever forget that boys and girls should learn to respect one another even as they strive to attain their full potentials.
I thank you for your attention. May God Bless the Providence International High School and May God Bless us all.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.