Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has been mayor of Free town (Sierra – Leone) since May 2018 . First woman elected to occupy this position after Dr June Holst-Roness (1977 – 1980, Editor’s note: the position was not elective at that time), the city councilor of the Sierra Leone capital has made the transformation of her city her priority.
To achieve this goal, the ” Transform Freetown ” initiative was launched in January 2019. The three-year Transform Freetown plan outlines 19 specific targets across 11 sectors and covers issues ranging from waste management and housing, to improving urban planning, tackling environmental degradation. The plan aims to address the socio-economic challenges and environmental vulnerabilities of Freetown, which remains the country’s economic engine with a contribution of 30% to the GDP. The 11 priority sectors are grouped into four key groups : Resilience, Human Development, Healthy Cities, and Urban Mobility .
The municipal team led by Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr took stock of the progress made so far through the publication of the project’s annual report
In terms of resilience , the city has launched a reforestation campaign with the goal of planting 1 million trees by 2022. “ It’s not just about planting trees; it’s about growing trees and making sure that each of us is part of the process. A million trees is our city’s small contribution to increasing the much-needed global carbon sink.”, explained the mayor during her attendance of the famous TED conference cycle here. The report also highlights the actions taken by the municipality in the response to COVID.
Gender & Climate
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr can be presented as a woman of action, communicating and leading national and international advocacy for her municipality on major global agendas.
In 2020, Freetown implemented the Women4Climat program. The initiative aims to empower and inspire the next generation of women leaders in the field of climate change through global mentorship.
In January 2021, Freetown has notably been chosen e as one of the 5 cities of low- and middle-income countries that received the #GlobalCitiesFund grant from the Council of Mayors on Migration. “ With this grant, we will expand our sustainable waste management microenterprise program by helping young people from informal communities to create 40 new waste collection businesses to serve more households. This directly contributes to our goal of having at least 60% of solid waste collected and safely disposed of by 2022 “, says Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr.
Water and sanitation
Through the Freetown -Blue Peace project launched in December 2020, the Freetown City Council (FCC) intend to obtain innovative funding to implement a sustainable water project in the capital city. “ The Freetown-Blue Peace project considers water as an entry point for interventions that build peace and foster development, because conflict is more likely to occur where there’s no development. We start with water, but we move very quickly into sanitation, which cannot happen without adequate water. Then we will move into markets, which is a source of livelihood—over 60% of our population operates in the informal economy. You don’t often think of water when you think of markets, and that itself is a challenge: the need for water for sanitation in the markets, for cold storage, and so on. And the final element is water drainage. So, it’s beyond running taps. Significantly, Freetown-Blue Peace is about sustainability, and that has three components: first is a real water element, which consists of the provisions of water kiosks. This targets informal settlements, and 35% of our people live in informal settlements; second is sanitation, from the perspective of public toilets. We’ll be constructing 40 water kiosks and 25 public toilets; and lastly, there is the element of collection of solid and liquid waste. We will be procuring vacuum trucks for better collection of solid and liquid waste. Only six percent of liquid waste was being collected in Freetown when I became Mayor in 2018. We have a target to increase that to at least 60 % by 2022.”, she explained in the interview with Africa Renewal here
Halfway through her term, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr is on the right track to keep her word , she who the day after her election said : ” Freetonians, this victory is for all of us. Thank you for believing in my vision and for doing me the honor to servr you as your mayor for the next four years. I look forward to working with all of you to make Freetown a city we are all proud of . “
Good luck , Madam Mayor !