Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tegloma Women Break the Glass Ceiling

New Tegloma Federation Chairman
Julia Hawa Conteh
For the first time in the 40 year history of the Sierra Leone organization Tegloma Federation Inc, a woman has been elected and inaugurated as its Chairman and leader 

The new Tegloma Federation Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh, was a former President of the Tegloma New York Chapter who tried unsuccessfully three years ago to become the first female Chairman of Tegloma. Upon the vacancy of the position by Alfred Jamiru, the election that was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was won at the time by the outgoing Chairman Mustapha Sheriff.  At the time, Mustapha Sheriff had just finished serving on the board of the Board of Directors of the organization and had served in various administrative and board positions. He was seen by many as having the experience to lead the organization and his campaign that year was very effective. He was elected to a two-year term as Federation Chairman. 
Inauguration by Board Chairman Senesie

At the end of Mustapha Sheriff's first term, Julia Hawa Conteh tried again for a second time, banking on Chairman Sheriff's growing unpopularity among some members of Tegloma. However Mustapha Sheriff, with the help many of his close allies in the organization, launched a formidable campaign for reelection and created formidable obstacles to her electoral challenged. 

A few months to the election, they closed the main communication forum of the organization with the excuse that they were cleaning it up, effectively preventing any campaigning on the forum by the female challenger.

In an acrimonious election held in Sacramento, California on Memorial Day weekend 2015, the two candidates surprisingly had a tie, with each managing to garner only 50% of the votes. According to Tegloma tradition, when there is a tie for the Chairmanship of the organization, each candidate vying for  leadership serves a single year of the two year mandate. Mustapha Sheriff therefore had to serve one more year and hand over to Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh this past weekend.
Team Conteh

Vice Chairman
Elizabeth Momoh
On Saturday September 3rd 2016, outgoing Chairman Mustapha Sheriff handed over to the historic female Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh, at a colorful ceremony in the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

 Mustapha Sheriff's supporters were decked in green, while Julia Hawa Conteh's supporters were dressed in orange and gold. The ceremony was presided over by the organization's new Board Chairman Thomas Senesie, the former chief of Tegloma Ohio Chapter.
Mustapha Sheriff in Minnesota 2013

Mustapha Sheriff at his final convention in Phoenix, outlined some of his major successes; including the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Tegloma as an organization in New Jersey, the revival of the Southern California Tegloma chapter, a timely response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, the establishment of a land committee to develop detailed plans for the Tegloma Land in Bo, Sierra Leone and the awarding of 50 scholarships to students in all the regions of Sierra Leone.
Sheriff's Supporters

Unfortunately, many view Mustapha Sheriff's administration as the most divisive in the history of the organization. He formed a plethora of committees that he populated mainly with those who supported his reelection bid, many of the committees bypassing the authority of executive members he disagreed with. He developed an unhealthy working relationship with the Board of Directors and became so obsessed with winning a second term that he effectively marginalized all who did not support his reelection bid.  Under his leadership chapter conflicts were exploited for electoral advantage and the chairman is leaving behind a legacy of deep divisions in certain chapter that a new administration will have to work very hard to mend.

The new Chairman faces substantial challenges keeping unity in Tegloma. She not only has to work hard to tackle the rift in chapters, she may also have to a potential challenger for her position in 2017.

Regardless of how the future plays out, she will go down in history as the first elected female in the history of the organization. Many people are hoping that Julia Hawa Conteh keeps a focus on Tegloma developing meaningful small scale projects to help people in rural Sierra Leone, rather than a focus on a future challenge to her position.

The Vice chairman Elizabeth Momoh of Tegloma Minnesota Chapter will continue in her position and serve in the same capacity.

West African News © 2016

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