PROFILE: Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, OOR.
Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Walmina Oreshola Blyden, OOR, (born October 1st 1971 in Freetown, Sierra Leone) is a Sierra Leonean trained medical doctor, a journalist & socio-political commentator, a human rights activist, owner of the country’s most widely read newspaper, a philanthropist per excellence and currently, as Special Executive Assistant to H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma, she is first woman appointed to Sierra Leone State House with Cabinet-rank.
Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has over the years, been consistent, fearless and courageous in expressing positions on Sierra Leone. This has won her many accolades and she is easily one of Sierra Leone’s most admired women currently. One simply cannot speak of Sierra Leone’s leading strong women with tremendous influence inside the country without listing Dr. Sylvia Blyden amongst the top.
A proficient academic, she entered Annie Walsh School, the oldest girls’ secondary school in sub-saharan Africa, as the best entrant of 1982 and graduated with the school’s best GCE O’Levels in 1987. Blyden was to again graduate with the best B.Sc. results from Medical School in 1993 and again graduate with proficiency in 1996 with an MB.ChB to become a medical doctor. She is certified by United States’ Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
Whilst at University, in June 1994, she emerged as Sierra Leone’s first, and so far, the only woman to be elected as a University of Sierra Leone students’ president; beating two male candidates in a landslide victory.
Dr. Blyden has been repeatedly named as a Child-Appointed Goodwill Ambassador for Sierra Leone’s Children since 2004 to date. She is also currently, the only National Goodwill Ambassador for Youths appointed in December 2011 by a nationwide youth’s selection in Sierra Leone. In essence, Sylvia Blyden is a highly recognised Sierra Leone Children, Youths and Women’s Rights Activist.
As the then only female university students’ president, Dr. Sylvia Blyden was invited by the United Nations to represent Sierra Leone’s female youths in Beijing, China during the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women where her outstanding stature saw all her other African peers from other African Nations, choose her to deliver the famous Female Youths of Africa Speech on August 11th 1995. This saw male and female African leaders of the likes of the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Winnie Mandela of South Africa rush on the stage to embrace her.
With further inspiration of Beijing 1995, Dr. Blyden again made History in Sierra Leone by becoming the country’s youngest ever National Political Party leader at age 30 years and the third ever Sierra Leone woman to lead a fully registered political party (the first being the trailblazer Presidential Candidate, the late Mrs. Jeridine Williams-Sarho in 1996). This was when she led the Young Peoples Party (YPP) to elections in middle of 2002.
Though she did not contest for the presidency in 2002 due to age limitations (Sierra Leone has a 40 years minimum age limit for president), Dr. Blyden, has in the past, spoken of her interest to eventually run for Presidency of Sierra Leone.
In 2003, she pioneered ground-breaking 24-Hours Internet Cafes that literally benefitted thousands of Sierra Leone youths who used free night-time services to improve on their academic research and knowledge of the world.
In 2005, she launched a powerful and fearless news media known as Awareness Times which quickly made its mark as one of the most critical and accurate voices in the country. Striding past many controversies, the newspaper quickly became the country’s fastest and highest selling newspaper; an unrivalled position it has held for over six years now.
In 2007, Dr. Blyden became the youngest ever Sierra Leonean, at that time, to be nationally honoured with an Officer of the Rokel insignia in recognition of her service to the Nation, on April 27th 2007 Independence Day.
In 2013, a new office was created by the President of Sierra Leone to which Blyden was appointed, making her the first woman ever in History of Sierra Leone to hold Cabinet rank at the State House. The position of Cabinet-ranked Special Executive Assistant (SEA) to the President, has been held by Dr. Sylvia Blyden since February 2013.
Dr. Sylvia Blyden is not married and has no children of her own but is known to literally take care of hundreds of children around the country. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Edward Wilmot Blyden, the “father of Pan-Africanism”. Her maternal grandfather is the 94 years old Sierra Leonean politician Solomon A. J. Pratt, and her paternal grandfather is the late Sierra Leonean diplomat Edward Wilmot Blyden III.
Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s favorite quote is from Holy Bible PROVERBS 29: 25-27: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Many seek the ruler’s favour, but justice for man comes from the Lord. An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous and he who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.”
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.