“We are confronting a health crisis not only in Sierra Leone but in sub- Saharan Africa. This crisis is called maternal mortality”.
Her Excellency, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma
First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone
Sia Nyama Koroma is the wife of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, 4th democratically elected President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Her matrimony is blessed with two daughters, namely Alice and Danké. Beyond her family responsibility, she has vividly manifested a motherly and leadership role in Sierra Leone for which she is referred to as the “Mother of the nation” in short “Ma’ma”.
She was born on March 19th 1958 to Danké Evelyn Koroma, a school teacher and Aiah Abu Koroma, a lawyer who later in years transformed into a respected political figure. Her Father served as Attorney General from 1967-1968 under the National Ruling Council Headed by Andrew A. T. Juxpon-Smith, and in 1996 Aiah Abu Koroma was a Presidential aspirant with the Democratic Center Party obtaining five seats in Parliament.
Sia Nyama Koroma attended a number of primary schools in Sierra Leone since her father was a Circuit Magistrate at the time. Her early childhood experience helped to shape her perspective about life. She attended the Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School in Freetown, where she completed her secondary education following which she traveled to the United Kingdom to pursue both her undergraduate and postgraduate studies which culminated in a Master’s degree in Synthetic Organic Chemistry. After her postgraduate studies, she commenced her career in public life at the Sierra Leone Petroleum Refinery where she served as Chief Chemist a job that involved conducting a routine quality control of petroleum products in the Country.
During the 1997 interregnum in Sierra Leone, she left the country for the United Kingdom where she studied nursing at Kings College, London University. Her educational background groomed her as both an Organic Chemist and a trained and practicing Psychiatric Nurse. Her academic background coupled with her timely experience and training received from her family have in diverse ways prepared her to serve Sierra Leone well in her capacity as First Lady.
Her overwhelmingly passionate character, empathy for the suffering, steadfastness in her sense of purpose, and fortitude in defending the defenseless serve her well in relating her many years of acquired experience. She is therefore adequately prepared to advocate on maternal health, child mortality and protection, and women’s rights empowerment. In an effort to effectively respond to the despair of her compatriots, she developed two programme frameworks under the Danké Koroma Foundation. One of which is called Women Initiative for Safer Health-WISH .
This programme is designed with support for UNFPA-Sierra Leone Country Office to improve women’s reproductive health outcomes as many women in the country are not adequately empowered in making the right health related decision due to cultural barriers, poverty and lack of information. The WISH primary objective is to complement the President’s Free Health Care Initiative which came into effect on April 27th 2010 for pregnant women and lactating mothers and children under 5 years. WISH therefore contributes to the government’s Health Sector initiative as defined by the 2007 “Agenda for Change”. The First Lady’s contribution constitutes the introduction of baby packs for health centers, training of 3hundred community health workers on reproductive and sexual health issues and family planning through her community sensitization outreach initiative countrywide. Her Office has reconstructed a dilapidated hospital in Mattru which is situated 165km from the capital Freetown. In partnership with RAND Corporation and Architect for Humanity she is working at constructing Health Resource Centers and Birth Waiting Homes which upon completion will serve as centers of excellence for the poor.
The other programme framework Sia Nyama Koroma conceptualized is the First Lady’s Attitudinal and Behavioral Change in Schools-FLAXIS In her capacity as First Lady, she is an avid campaigner of women and children and has been working for the enhancement of a fair and equitable society where the most vulnerable groups are allowed to access public services. In an astute manner, she has presented herself abroad as a worthy advocate for the poor and vulnerable in Sierra Leone, effectively using the profile of her office to tailor made solution that address issues affecting the country. At the 2008 African Union Summit in Cairo-Egypt, she was selected as a regional committee member for West Africa at the prestigious session of the Organization of African First Ladies-OAFLA. Additionally, in March 27th 2010 she was instrumental in launching the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa-CARMMA.
Evidently, in the international arena, Sia Nyama Koroma is making noteworthy strides in rebranding and supporting her husband in building a promising future for their country. She has, through her work undoubtedly brought hope to the poor and vulnerable in Sierra Leone representing her significant contribution in the country’s post-war reconstruction period. She is an ardent table tennis player. In the like manner she plays tennis, she is determined to make a positive impact and gainfully contribute in Sierra Leone’s nation building efforts.
The FLAXIS initiative promotes child education and examines the concept of attitudinal change in relation to inter-generational dynamics, bringing back family, societal and cultural values to education. It is envisaged that this project will facilitate the development of a national curriculum drawing on current efforts to instill in school age children, respect for person, property, environment, attitudes and behavior as learning prerequisite. FLAXIS directly contributes to the government’s Education Sector as defined by the 2007 “Agenda for Change. Over the past two years, in consultation with the Ministry of Education FLAXIS has been awarding under the auspices of the First Lady, Sia Nyama Koroma, scholarships to deserving students in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
The Office of the First Lady became effective under the leadership of Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma. Historically she has shifted the role of the First Lady from domestic responsibility to a much more programmatic orientation. At country level her Office is part of the United Nation Joint Vision while internationally she has served as Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker in a number of meetings. Some of which include but not limited to the following;
• June 7th to 9th 2010 Women Deliver Global Conference in Washington D. C, Sia Nyama Koroma was among a selected group of First Ladies from around the world that were invited to attend this 3days special meeting to discuss how as First Ladies they can use their position to advocate for improved maternal and new born health, girls’ access to secondary education, reduction of violence against women and gender equality.
• May 10th to 13th 2010 she was invited as one of the special guest of honor for the annual CARE International Celebration, during which she highlighted her work in the reduction of maternal mortality through the WISH framework. Following this meeting, she visited the Capitol Building and lobbied for strengthening partnership for support in the area of Nutrition, Maternal Health, HIV/AIDS and specific issues affecting vulnerable groups
• September 1st 2009 on the basis of her role as a renown advocate for maternal and child mortality, Mrs. Sarah Brown (wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown) invited Sia Nyama Koroma as special guest of honor at 10 Downing Street in London to give a presentation on “National Leadership and Delivery on Maternal Health”. This meeting was attended by among other UNICEF Executive Director, Anne Veneman and the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Raymond Chambers.
It is relevant to note here that the concrete outcome of Sia Nyama Koroma’s her work has attracted a plethora of development partners from around the world.
The term ‘nation building’ in Sierra Leone refers to a constructive process of engaging all citizens in building a social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in an inclusive and democratic way.