After the rain had settled on a gloomy Saturday evening, I had a long chat with Esther, over lunch. Right on time, she walks in and I lean for a hug. Just as I expected, she is a Queen in appearance and conduct. I am itching to hear how she is using music to change the African Narrative.
Hello! please tell us about yourself and what you do
You started Music for Girls Initiative Africa in 2015, what motivated you to start it?
Many things motivated me to start Music for Girls Initiative Africa but first my personal life. As a young girl, I really didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I remember clearly, when I was 10 years old, I had to change school. In this new school, I was at the administrative block when a lady looked at me and said; ‘Eleyi O fine, O kan pupa ni’ This means,’ this girl is not fine, she’s just fair.’ So, I grew up with really low self-esteem not being sure of who I was and what I was capable of doing. As I grew older, God helped me understand who I am in Him and whose I am. I began to see the need to appreciate myself and what I looked like. Because I am fair-skinned, I had a couple of friends who would say ‘If you were dark, you would be ugly; you’re fine only because you are fair.’ I also had issues with my height and so many unnecessary issues. As I grew older, I knew there was more to life than you look. It’s not about the container, it’s more about the content. Who are you? Why are you here? What purpose are you here to fulfil? Really, that was what really spurred me to start up Music for Girls’.
I thought I could use it as an avenue to help girls appreciate who they are and you know if you have some form of skill or talent, it kind of helps you develop your self-esteem, boost your morale and self-worth. I am partly Sierra Leonean and I live in Sierra Leone, our history has been marred by wars, economic downturn and the Ebola outbreak. Interestingly, in 2014, when Ebola broke out, it was when we had the highest level of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. I thought to myself; I could help fix something and change something. As I spoke one evening to a friend about getting involved, she said; you do music, why not make something out of it. So, I started Music for Girls. The idea is to empower girls physically, emotionally and financially. This is because in Sierra Leone we have several issues that have to do with girls ranging from gender-based violence, child marriage and teenage pregnancy. I wanted to use music, music as a tool to disseminate information send out a voice, create change and be heard.
For several decades, Sierra Leone has been torn apart in wars and ethnic conflicts. How does what you do effect a change in the narrative of your country?
A core part of our objectives is to create cultural exchange through our work-music and encourage entrepreneurship. We use music, dance and poetry to talk about issues that affects girls and use them to proffer solutions. We want governments, advocates, influential people and everyone to hear us. Music and indeed entertainment have no boundaries. I listen to music from China, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Music is the only profession that has boundaries. As Wiz kid said, ‘Music travels without visa.’ Of course, it’s been difficult but we have been able to help many girls by helping them see themselves as catalysts of change. We have had a couple of programs from The Concert for Female Ebola Survivors and several other programs. Through these programs, we gave girls a platform to understand and speak on wide-ranging issues that affects them and their peers directly and indirectly. We teach them how to be volunteers, servers of nations, how to be selfless in service, how to empathise, how to feel the pain of somebody else and most importantly; how to love people. For instance, on the International Day of the African Child, we showcased the products of girls who made bags and other accessories. I showed you some of these things. By doing this, we are able to empower these girls financially.
For several youths, the basic challenge is finding a meaning to life. This quest to find a meaning to life has led many to find answers in terrorism, drugs and several social vices. How can people, find meaning to their lives?
I remember that when I was 10, I wanted to be a singer. Finding yourself really is influenced by so many things; your family, society and invariably the world. despite the huge influences of these factors, you are the pilot of the plane. I tell people; your environment can influence you but you have a greater influence over your environment. How do you do that? It’s with your mind. I started to dream big, I didn’t see it physically but I just thought whatever I put my mind to; I can achieve. I look around me and there were certain things that are wrong. I think I can change them by thinking differently. What happens with African youths is the fact that our minds are limited, sometimes we just learn from what we see, we don’t let what sees us learn from us. What really has kept me going is my family. In reality, they have influenced me in more ways than I can count. However, it was still my choice to be influenced or not. So, to youths, you need to make up your mind on what you want. I should tell you a fact, Jesus is the centre point of my life and all that I do.
What is your biggest dream for your initiative?
For me, I want to die and let my legacy live on.