A Golden Magic – Transforming Lives One at a Time
A success story by DCI-Sierra Leone and UNICEF.
“An incredibly painful yet inspirational experience”
Sallay is 47 years old. She lives with her five kids including Sento (20), in the coastal fishing town of Tombo, in the Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone.
Sallay’s epic story is incredibly painful yet very inspirational. Molested and abandoned by her husband in 2013, Salay lived as a single mother for 11 years. The absence of her husband also costs Sallay many things including, causing significant damage to her relationship with her children.
After the departure of her husband in 2013, the odds were against Sallay. Growing up her 5 children in the rural village of Tombo, as a single parent doesn’t provide much stability. She struggled with everything including paying house rent, providing them with food and supporting their education. These multiplier situations escalated into aggression, grief, anger, and revenge, which resulted in a broken relationship with her children – including 20 years old Sento. She also uses harsh discipline against her children.
“My anger is not because of the children but because of how I was treated by their father. He left me and my children at a time we needed him the most. For 11 years, he stayed out of the country and did not care for his children. He does not communicate nor provide any support for them. Unfortunately, proceeds from my petty trading couldn’t support their upkeep including their education. I blame him for the difficult relationship I had with my children” –said Sallay.
“Holy alliance to break away from a hostile cycle”
Isolated and desperate to break away from an extremely tense cycle and hostile environment, Sento, who had initially dropped out of school at Primary Six, connived and forged an alliance with her neighbors including her mother’s friends, to fake Sallay of being impregnated by her childhood boyfriend.
“It was a very difficult decision, but it was all I could do because I wasn’t safe around her anymore. I needed to break out of that cycle, so I lied that I was pregnant, and the neighbor supported me. They knew that my mother would not bother to examine the truth of the statement and would only ask me out of her house in disappointment which she did at the time.” said Sento.
As expected, Sally reacted negatively. She kicked Sento out of her house and coursed her return to her home. Neglected by her mother and family, Sento had one choice – cohabit and dwell with her childhood boyfriend for months – the only place she considered safe, even though he was ruthless, offensive, and very abusive.
“When I was wrongly informed that she was pregnant, I didn’t even take her for a pregnancy test. I immediately drove her out of my house and blamed her for everything. I was all wrong,” said Sallay.
“A magical experience”
Months later, Sallay realized that it was a scary prank. Sento was never pregnant, and she was all wrong in asking her out of her house and caused her return. Desperate to amend, Sallay initiated a compromise, and her neighbors facilitated the reconciliation process between herself and her children including Sento. Peace was struck. Sento returned home but the relationship deteriorated – Mamy Sallay remained aggressive, and anger regenerated.
“My friends felt disappointed and blamed me for the many things happening to my children. But I was not like this. Everything changed after my husband left and never showed solidarity with our children. Sento returned home but they remained afraid of my aggressiveness, and this never helped solving our relationship issues. It was a sad experience for me and my family”- said Sallay.
It was during this hostile period that Sallay was enlisted as one of the 60 parents to benefit from the “Good Kombra na Glady Family ” program – A positive parenting program for parents and caregivers in the coastal fishing town of Tombo. Supported by UNICEF, the program utilizes evidence-based approaches to promoting positive parenting that focus on strengthening parenting skills and sensitivity. Sallay attended the parenting sessions and learned, connected, and adapted to her daily life various skills like good communication, alternatives to shouting, role modeling, and apologizing for hurtful actions. This was the golden magic that transformed Sallay’s relationship with her children including with Sento.
“After attending three sessions, I broke my own rules. I assembled my children, took responsibility for my actions, apologized, and pleaded for their forgiveness. It was a very emotional experience. We were all in tears and today we all feel completely happy. Now, I think less about him and focus more on my children since they are the future” – Sallay.
Happiness, joy + champion of change
Thanks to the intervention, Sally and her children are now united with happiness and joy, having had the opportunity to reconcile their differences. Sento is back home, engaged in her small-scale business, receiving the support she deserves, and gaining the confidence and hope she needs to succeed.
Like Sallay, many parents and adolescents in Sierra Leonean parents and caregivers, especially in deprived communities, need help to effectively communicate with their teenage children. With support from UNICEF, DCI–SL has built a strong partnership with parents in 15 communities – 5 each in Bombali, Kenema and Western Area Rural district of Sierra Leone to improve care and provide direct support to parents and adolescent victims of abuse, violence, and exploitation, and to mobilize local resources to access child-friendly justice systems.
*All names changed to protect privacy.