Haja Marie Bob Kandeh, a prominent activist in Sierra Leone, is dedicated to promoting women’s empowerment, independence, and civil rights. Despite facing obstacles and opposition, she has become a champion for women’s rights in the country.
Kandeh’s journey began when she started selling goods at a street market in Freetown. Through interacting with her women customers, she began to notice the challenges they faced. This sparked her advocacy for market women, and she was elected as Secretary of the Market Committee in 1994. In this role, she not only mediated business disputes but also family disputes.
In 1996, Kandeh co-founded the Sierra Leone Market Women Association, which aimed to educate market women about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Since then, she has served on various committees and commissions, including the Women’s Commission, Association for Rural Development, Civil Defense Unit, Anti-Corruption Commission, and Constitutional Review Committee.
However, being a woman in such a role comes with risks. Kandeh has been threatened and attacked by men who oppose her views on forced marriage and domestic violence. Nevertheless, she continues to educate people and encourage them to speak out on these issues through her work at the market, radio programs, and visits to communities across the country.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kandeh has been actively working to address the increased violence against women and girls. She has been providing important information on COVID-19 prevention measures and holding meetings on sexual- and gender-based violence in rural districts. Additionally, she has distributed over 1,000 cloth masks to vulnerable market women and encouraged them to practice physical distancing.
Despite not having a formal education, Kandeh remains humble and committed to serving her community. She hopes to inspire and impact the next generation of young women and girls to become activists for the betterment of themselves and their country
Biography Source: Giraffe Heroes