26-year-old Banda Musu Hickmatu Bintu Leigh, a photographer, has returned from Rwanda with the ‘Best in Fest’ award for the photography work she presented at the Women Deliver 2023 Conference that ended last Thursday in Kigali.
According to the Conferences’ website, “a tradition of Women Deliver Conferences since 2010, this year’s Arts & Film Festival features over 160 inspiring and informative pieces of creative content of all genres submitted by students and independent filmmakers from diverse regions, UN/NGO agencies, and Oscar/Emmy-winning production companies.
Her work, she said, depicts a sad reality that women’s voices have been silenced, and they often go unseen in various aspects of society. “The patriarchal system has profoundly impacted women’s ability to express themselves and be heard freely,” she emphasised and stressed that this has led to women being undervalued and underrepresented in many fields.
A visibly happy Hickmatu said she was overwhelmed with mixed emotions when she heard her name announced at such a physical and online global audience of about 7000 participants. “I have never won anything in my life,” she disclosed.
Furthermore, she said she was excited about the award because “I have been trying so hard to be seen, to be heard and to get societal recognition for the work that I do.” She hopes the award will inspire many young Sierra Leonean girls to do what they are passionate about.
Hickmatu holds a BSc in Public Health from Njala University, and her work is centred around Sierra Leonean women, sharing their stories and supporting systems. She said, “My photo series are almost always of Sierra Leonean women just as they are – forever evolving to supersede local and global stereotypes of ‘their limits’.”
She was also thankful to Purposeful. organization in Sierra Leone for making it possible to attend the Conference. “I almost did not make it to Kigali because I had no means of paying my airfare and other expenses, but thankfully, I reached out to someone at the organization, and they came to my rescue. For this, I am forever grateful.”
The Women Deliver Arts and Film Festival, where Hickmatu had the opportunity to showcase her work, is a special feature of the Women Deliver 2023 Conference. “These finalists tell the stories and show the faces behind Women Deliver’s mission of improving the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women,” according to the website created for the conference.
By: Our Kigali, Rwanda Guest Correspondent