In 2007 Sierra Leone was emerging from eleven years of civil war. It was ranked by the United Nations as one of the poorest countries in the world. Women especially faced great hardship and despair, lacking equal access to education, economic opportunities and rights to life and health. Thousands of women were dying needlessly, giving birth.
Freetown is twinned with my birthplace Kingston upon Hull in the UK to foster cultural understanding and friendships. When I first visited in 2007 life expectancy for women was 42. I was about to turn 42 and out of curiosity looked up my life expectancy as a woman living in the West. It was almost double, at 83. I saw this as a violation of human rights, the right of everyone to be given the opportunity to live a long, healthy life.
‘‘Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.’’ Amnesty International Demand Dignity Campaign 2009.
42 continues. It aims to show the beauty, spirit, hope and the value to society of women like Gladys, Francess, Rebecca and others. Not just in Sierra Leone, but women everywhere, who wake each morning with the belief that surely one day, life will get better.
Project funded by Arts Council England and the British Council.