We Lead by Sabi (We Lead by Example) was an innovation project aimed at addressing gender and disability discrimination in Sierra Leone. The project was developed by CAUSE Canada and CAUSE Canada Sierra Leone Partnership with support from the Fund for Innovation and Transformation, the Inter-Council Network, the Government of Canada, and Canadian donors and tested in rural communities in the Koinadugu and Falaba districts between April 2022 and March 2023.
Sierra Leone ranks 162 out of 170 in the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index with women and girls in the country facing significant gender inequality, including discrimination, limited access to sexual and reproductive health, and high vulnerability to violence. At the same time, people living with disabilities in Sierra Leone are vulnerable to extreme abuse and discrimination due to misconceptions about the causes and special powers of people living with disabilities. Women and girls living with a disability live at the intersection of these two discriminations and are therefore extremely vulnerable and marginalized – often being isolated and excluded from their families and communities.
We Lead by Sabi aimed to empower women with disabilities to lead change in their communities. These Champions (both women living with and without disabilities) were trained to work with out-of-school girls living with disabilities, their families, and communities to identify and plan strategies to improve access to rights, including education, health, and protection from gender-based violence.
Significant improvements were observed in girls living with disabilities’ rights, particularly their access to education. Prior to the intervention, only 37% of the girls were enrolled in school however by the end of the intervention, enrollment of these girls had increased to 97%.
Champions played a crucial role in engaging communities and advocating for women and girls living with disabilities. Community Working Groups actively worked to address discrimination, neglect, and violence against women and girls with disabilities. Women and girls living with disabilities also became empowered advocates for their rights.
Both Champions with and without disabilities were successful in improving the capacities of girls and women living with a disability, their families, and communities. However, Champions living with a disability were particularly effective advocates and role models for change.
In 2024, CAUSE Canada will begin a one-year project that aims to help adolescent girls return to and succeed at school. With the learning from We Lead by Sabi, the project will target specifically girls living with disabilities and again, engage women living with disabilities to be Champions. The objective is that not only will girls go to school but girls and women living with disabilities gain dignity, and that long-term sustainable change is made in communities to recognize the value of people living with disabilities.