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NOTICES & DOCUMENTS  

Keynote Address by Sylvia Blyden at the Certification Ceremony of the Center for Women's Empowerment in Sierra Leone
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Apr 11, 2011, 13:13
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KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY DR. SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN

Distinguished Guest Speaker at the Certification Ceremony of the

Center for Womens Empowerment in Freetown

A PROJECT OF YOUTH ACTION INTERNATIONAL

Saturday April 9th 2011

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen,

All Protocols Observed,

 

Today is a wonderful day in the lives of these young women whom are going to enter the world of not only professional skills offering but some of whom will enter the world of running a small business. As one of the countrys outstanding female entrepreneurs, I am humbled to be chosen to be the one to address our young ladies on this their special day.

 

I come from a line of wonderful female small business entrepreneurs starting with my great-grandmother Mrs. Ella Nicol who was a Master-gardener from the Mountain villages of Freetown on to my grandmother Mrs. Rosamund Marsh who was a seamstress who travelled all over Sierra Leone with her sewing machines, imparting knowledge to young girls in the Provinces to enable them to also become seamstresses. The entrepreneurial spriit skipped over my mum who rather chose to become one of Sierra Leones best civil servants and administrators.

 

However, not only did I fully inherit entrepreneurial skills but I went on to abandon my profession of Medicine in which I have two University Medical degrees, to become a full fledged entrepreneur taking risks to ensure my dreams became true. I took the risk of opening up the countrys first set of 24 Hours Internet and Computer Business Centers and they were a huge success until the advent of the current poor quality of Internet service. I took the risk of entering the field of journalism and newspaper publishing and today I control the most widely read and circulated newspaper in Sierra Leone. There are many places in this country where newspaper is synonymous with Awareness Times and nothing else.

 

In carrying out some of these investments, I entered what were previously solely male dominated areas and in the process stepped on a lot of toes of a lot of men who just could not accept that a woman could not only be as good as them but could also do better than them in their fields.

 

This is why I will now focus on how a Female Entrepreneur can survive in a Male Dominated Society. Let me first advise you that it is not going to be easy. Not only are you going to have to now be Mathematicians and Managers but when it comes to competing for jobs and contracts, you are going to have to also become the Best Diplomat possible as well as the Best Negotiator possible and at the same time, the Best No-Nonsense Individual possible. You are going to have to effectively combine Aggression with Feminity.


In order not to go up against brusque men, you might be tempted to just stay in a little corner and not try to be competitive in a Mens World but why should you? Why should you limit your God-given Intellectual and Vocational Skills to a little corner when you can be the best person in your field? Why should the fact that you are a Woman limit you from being the best possible computer expert in this country? Or the best possible Tailor? Or the best possible anything in this world?

 

As I said earlier, not only did I bring innovative computer and internet skills into this country but I also launched a powerful newspaper that is today the highest selling and most widely circulated newspaper in the country. My entry into these fields were so powerful and made such an impact that I became the youngest ever Sierra Leonean to be given the National Honour of an Officer of the Order of the Rokel on April 27th 2007 for my contributions to fields of Internet Information Technology, Business & Journalism. And yet, I am a WOMAN. Being a woman did not limit me from achieving greatness and it should not limit you. Take these skills you have learnt and turn yourselves into a Wonder to behold. If Sylvia Blyden can do it, so also can you!

 

Now, to you the ladies who are learning for the very first time in your lives what literacy is, this is just the first step into a powerful new world. I want you to take things a step further and not stop only at learning to read and write. Let me tell you about an great-aunt of mine named Taiwo Sawyer. She learnt to properly read and write at a very late age just like you. After this, she decided to read and learn the Holy Bible and she became a great Christian Evangelist in Sierra Leone. She opened churches and in turn taught women all over this country not only to read and write but to become powerful Christians preaching the word of God as written in the Bible! And yet, she only started to read and write in her middle-age. It is not enough for you to just learn to read and write. It is now time to apply the power of literacy to your lives. Apply the new skills to something that will further you even more. Open up books and newspapers and try to read from them. And most importantly, SHARE YOUR SKILLS. Teach others how to read and write as much as possible. Please do not abandon this skill you have acquired. It is so powerful!

 

Each one of you here today is going to now be a symbol of inspiration to others. Those who knew you before and are going to see you as you apply your new skills, are going to admire you. You have to now act in a manner that will inspire young girls coming up who might find themselves in the same situations you might have found yourself before you entered the Center for Womens Empowerment. You are now to stand firm and represent in your actions everything that they have to aspire to become. You are now a symbol of inspiration and the way in which you comport yourself is going to go a very long way in ensuring others aspire to become like you.

 

You have been given skills but it is not enough to only receive skills. I want you all to now become powerful advocates for more women to be given such skills. In anything you do, do not forget that there are many who are like how you used to be and so you must assist to lobby and team up with people like Mr. Donald Kalokoh, the Country Representative for this programme, to ensure that others get to receive the opportunity to be like you. Dedicate part of your time towards advocacy. It is a selfless service but it can get you to meet with great people who will admire your selflessness. Just ask Donald Kalokoh, who actually got to meet no less a person that Barack Obama at the White House last year!

 

My dear Ladies, you are going to meet people including your relatives who are going to try to dissuade you from being the best in your fields or going for the highest mountain you wish to climb. They will discourage you giving you all sorts of reasons why you cannot do it; including the fact that you are an African Woman in a Mans world. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM. I never did! And today, just look at me!

 

In the History of Sierra Leone, I am the only Woman in Sierra Leone who has won elections to become a University of Sierra Leone Students Union President. However, when I wanted to contest in 1994, my mum softly tried to discourage me saying my ancestors usually lost their attempts to be Presidents of political entities. She did it out of not wanting to see me broken-hearted at a possible defeat. However, I did not listen to her and I became the First and so far, the only Sierra Leone Woman to have held that position. The Bible and the Koran call for us to honour and obey our parents but when it comes to achieving your dreams, please do not allow your parent to limit you. No-one can stop you! You can be anything you want to be.

 

To end this Address, let me recall what I said yesterday during a Speech I delivered at a Schools Prize-Giving. I made it clear that everyone has the potential to be anything they 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. It was the great American Martin Luther King who said that no man can ride your back unless you bend it for them to climb on. Each graduant in here was born to be great. Only you can make yourself lose that greatness!

 

You can be the greatest hairdresser! The greatest tailor! The greatest computer expert! The greatest knitter, the greatest secretary in the world! Being a woman is not a limitation! Think Positive. The world is yours. Grab it in the same way that Dr. Sylvia Blyden has grabbed the world. Enjoy life and enjoy your dreams. If I can do it, you definitely can do it. If Sylvia Blyden can do it, why should YOU not be able to do it as well? I wish you all the best possible things for yourself and may I assure you all that my doors and phone lines will always be open to anyone of you who wishes to talk to me or meet me for advise. May God Bless us all and May God Bless the Youth Action International and the Center for Womens Empowerment!

 

I thank you for your attention.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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