Women leading transformative leadership in Sierra Leone:
The case of Councillor Matinda Kumba Mempeh

PUBLISHED November 22, 2023
Matinda Kumba Mempeh stands as a beacon of transformation and resilience within the heart of Kamara Chiefdom, Kono district. Her journey, from the humble beginnings of a volunteer teacher to the influential helm of community leadership, exemplifies the potency of determination and unwavering support, particularly from the "Momormoinema" VSLA group. This VSLA group trained by SEND Sierra with financial support from Irish Aid through the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone, became the catalyst propelling Matinda towards an unforeseen pinnacle of leadership.


At 43, Matinda's passion for education and community welfare was deeply ingrained. Growing up in a village entrenched in poverty, access to quality education was limited, and the challenges extended to basic necessities like healthcare and nutrition for all households.Despite her own struggles, Matinda persisted, passing her West African Secondary School Examinations (WASSCE) but was unable to advance to pursue a university education due to financial constraints with her household. Her passion for education compelled her to serve her community as a volunteer teacher at the United Methodist Church Primary School in Benduta village, located in the Kamara Chiefdom of Kono district. As a volunteer teacher she received no financial remuneration from the Ministry of Education, making her teaching journey difficult as she usually found it challenging to secure teaching materials and learning resources. Nevertheless, Matinda's desire to impact young minds and nurture future leaders remained unwavering.

“I loved teaching and even though I was not paid, I would still show up to school everyday because the future of the children in the community depended on me coming to school to teach.”

The Journey

The turning point came in 2020 when Matinda joined the "Momormoinema" VSLA group, a savings group trained by SEND Sierra Leone to empower women within the Benduta community with relevant financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills to become self-reliant. In addition to financial literacy trainings, Matinda received trainings that focused on emotional intelligence, self-confidence and community-led problem solving. These trainings empowered Matinda to expand her vision beyond the walls of the classroom and to address broader community challenges.

Empowered by this newfound support, Matinda embarked on a courageous foray into politics, contesting for the Councillor position under the Coalition for Change (C4C) party, competing against male opponents. Her campaign was characterized by tireless advocacy for enhanced education, healthcare, and economic opportunities for her Chiefdom. Supported by her savings group, members of her savings group took on the role of her campaign activists by spreading her campaign messages across all communities in the Kamara chiefdom. With women leading the campaign, this signalled a change in the political landscape, giving hope to women across all communities and motivating them to support their fellow woman who had developed a clear vision for the Chiefdom. Matinda's grassroots approach and unwavering dedication endeared her to constituents, culminating in a triumphant win as a Councillor representing the Kamara Chiefdom at the Kono District Council after the 2023 General Elections in Sierra Leone.

“ I am focused on a better Kamara Chiefdom in Sierra Leone for our children, mothers and families. I will do my best as Councillor to deliver that to my people and generations to come.”

As a Councillor, Matinda's commitment to supporting vulnerable communities has endeared as she works with several stakeholders to address the critical challenges in the chiefdom. Her advocacy and lobbying works have led to the construction of vital infrastructure including bridges for communities separated by rivers to facilitate the safe movement of children and women between the communities as they access education and healthcare services. She has so far supported the construction of 10 water wells in several communities within the chiefdom and supported youth groups with tools and local resources to improve the deplorable state of roads within the chiefdom. Matinda has also set up a financial support scheme which provides relief items to widows and single mother households during emergency periods and provides necessary investments for entrepreneurship opportunities for these persons.Matinda's works as a Councillor echoes the transformative impact of education, support networks, and initiatives like the More Than A Woman Project. Her growth serves as a guiding light for women, showcasing that with determination, knowledge, and a supportive community, one can transcend obstacles and lead positive change. Matinda Kumba Mempeh's journey is not merely her own triumph but a beacon illuminating the potential when women are empowered to wield influence and effect profound change within their communities. Her story epitomizes hope, signaling a brighter future not just in Kamara Chiefdom but far beyond its boundaries.