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Monday, January 18, 2016

Relationship Building, Service & Leadership: Christmas in Freetown with Madame Isha Johansen

Leadership and the Spirit of Service in Sierra Leone

I've never really enjoyed Christmas in Sierra Leone because I've always thought that the true meaning of Christmas was lost in all the enjoyment and parties. This Christmas was a bit different from the others. Firstly I had the opportunity to spend some time with some amazing women who are doing impactful things in Sierra Leone.  It gave me just the right dose of encouragement, motivation and drive to start the new year. One of my most memorable parts of the holiday was spending Christmas Day with Madame Isha Johansen President of the Sierra Leone Football Association .

There has been a lot of negative buzz in the local media about Madame Johansen, which has taken our attention away from the work that she is doing and her vision for  Sierra Leone as the President of the Football Academy. As a woman in an industry dominated by men it's difficult to get the proper support from those you lead especially the sentiments are that you don't deserve to be their leader. One thing I believe she does successfully is build positive relationships in her community such as this event. I have seen the lack of support and appreciation that some Sierra Leonean female leaders have gotten over time, at the same time I wonder how they are making it on an International scale and realize that a lot of it comes from their leadership approach. WCA's  Bosschique Isha Johansen taught me a few things this holiday season about service and leadership.


 According to a Pulse on Leaders Study   by PDI Ninth House a leadership consulting firm, women, place a higher value on work that gives them a sense of personal fulfilment and contribution in a friendly environment.(Source) Since I have known her she celebrates her birthday by having a party or dinner with close family and friends. This year she decided to celebrate it a bit different from the norm by empowering and enhancing the lives of  young people and underserved families in her community particularly those who may never experience the true sense of Christmas. Madame Isha Johansen is known to many as the Iron Lady she fights for what she believes in and loves to help those less fortunate especially young people.  On Christmas day, I had the opportunity to see the Iron lady at work and this helped me put things in perspective in understanding relational leadership.  


Giving Back to Her Community
 On Christmas morning, Madam Johansen started her day welcoming the first babies born at Princess Christina Maternity Hospital (the hospital she was born in)  and the Aberdeen Women's Center with smiles, hugs and gifts. Later that day she hosted a one of a kind Christmas party for grassroots children and family. With help and support from the SLFA, UNICEF & Leo Cem Cement Factory, the Football Academy was transformed to an open field with games, bouncing castles, face painting, Christmas Trees, lights and more. With over 300 children in attendance Madame Johansen brought the magic of Christmas to these communities from the East and West of Freetown. The children had the opportunity to meet Father Christmas (Santa Clause), received gifts, fun, laughter, food, merriment and more especially they. I believe they truly had a life changing experience that day.

I had the opportunity to ask  Madame Johansen  about her feelings on the day and she shared that "going to the hospital I was born at  to welcome the early morning Christmas Day babies was an act born out of pure Christmas spirituality. A reflection on my life. Another life changing and emotional moment was sharing the joy of mums with their newborns and giving them presents. Christmas is a magical time. I think those new mums and indeed the kids at Christmas party felt the magic this Christmas.  I want to keep this tradition going and pray that I can".

The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama once said “Success is not about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives. As a leader, two  lessons learned as 2015 was that Leadership is about serving and building positive relationships. I learnt that success is about having the right relationships, and serving others. Building the right team is hard and will take time to develop, however building the right team is what will ultimately lead to your success and this what precisely Madame Isha and other women I had the opportunity to interact with are doing. Lastly, think about relationships in relation to the parable of the Sower, sow seeds that will fall on good ground so that the seed can grow and multiple and be bountiful.

By Ajara Bomah 
Ajara is a child of the African Diaspora living and working between
Sierra Leone and the US. As the  CEO & Founder of Rhoyalty Concepts
she works as  a project manager  and events consultant. Her work
centers around Gender issues, Governance , Business & Leadership
development.  Ajara believes in the power of the youth and loves
cultivating young girls into leaders.  She is the Co-Creator of Women
Mean Business Honors a platform to honor African Women Entrepreneurs &

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