The number of women leaders who are stepping forward as change agents that advocate for the assailable and voiceless in society increases across the world with landmark achievements in humanitarian activities.
Seah Matilda Banga a.k.a Sia Domingo is one of the leading women who uses her platform to advocate for important issues like human rights activities, education, women’s and youth empowerment, entrepreneurship, and civil society campaign for good governance among other injustices
As a role model, ambassador, leader, activist, and Ordained Pastor, Seah Matilda Banga has carved out a niche in the world with her captivating educational background and journey into humanitarian activities and leadership role which enable her to lead various organizations back in the home and in diaspora and worked on many humanitarian projects.
Seah Matilda Banga had an exclusive interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE, and shares her humanitarian experiences, her days as a refugee, her advocacy for change and democratic stability in Sierra Leone, her role as an electoral judge which enables her to know the importance of voting rights, justice, and fairness for citizens to have more engagement with government through voting and how she founded and manage her foundation and other investment like real estate.
Below are excerpt:
Your profile is captivating, motivating and interesting; can you tell us briefly about yourself, your family and your educational background?
I am originally from Kono District (the land of diamonds), the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone in West Africa and currently living in the United States of America.
I attended the University of Sierra Leone, Institute of Public Administration and Management where I graduated with a background in Journalism, I went back and added Public administration and computer studies to the package. I also attended the Haggai Institute of South Africa, Nairobi Peace Initiatives, and completed the Conflict Resolution and Peace mediation course. I acquired more diplomas from the Liberian Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, The Ghana Human Rights Commission.
In 2015, I was invited to participate in the Barak Obama Organizing for Action Expedited course for Community activist and Fellow program. I attended and graduated as a Fellow in 2016. I have since attended other programs in his institution in Chicago. After my Fellows program, I also became a Fellows Manager and was appointed Head of Chapter for the climate change and leadership in my county, Montgomery County, Maryland, from 2016-2018.
With the call of God upon my life, I attended the Omega Christian University in Louisiana, United States, and completed my doctoral at the Southern Wesleyan University.
While in Sierra Leone I was a civil activist and actively participated in human rights activities, women’s empowerment, and a civil society coordinator for the campaign for good governance. I was blessed to work for one of the best attorney’s offices in Sierra Leone, Betts and Berewa law firm for 12 years. Lawyer Berewa later became Attorney General of Sierra Leone as well as a presidential candidate. It was during my time there that I developed the inspiration to fight for the disadvantaged and developed my leadership skills. I became the founder and President of the Sierra Leone Legal Secretaries Association, the Secretary-general of the National Organization for Women (NOW) for over 5 years.
During the rebel war in Sierra Leone, I escaped to Guinea, Conakry where I was temporarily employed by the UNHCR to manage the refugee program. While serving as a refugee myself, I was approached to participate as one of the voices behind the pirate radio, Radio Democracy 981.FM with a mandate to organize programs, speak to bring back democracy to Serra Leone. I took on the alias Sia Domingo because it was a very sensitive time then. I was promoted to become the first Personal Assistant to the then President Alhaj Tejan Kabbah. I served only a short time and was invited to the United States by the USAID to participate in the Democratic Enhancement for Women program in Washington DC. After the course, I could not go back because there was another war in Sierra Leone. It was during that international visitor’s program that I was given honorary citizenship by the Mayo of Nebraska.
To continue my passion I started an organization called the Diaspora International Platform which is a tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Maryland in the United States of America. The idea was to bring together other African countries, advocate for change and democracy stability, so we can lend our voices to each other and support when needed. There are currently about 15 countries in the organization.
I am the Founder of This Time Africa Media- a platform to hear the minds and achievements, contributions of Africans in the Diaspora and globally. The General Overseer of GAP Ministries- Destiny House in the United States, with partners in India, South Africa, Sierra Leone.
On the corporate level, I am also in property management, finding great apartment homes or other homes for people t0 meet their budget
What motivated you to start the Diaspora International Platform and what have been the aims and objectives?
Diaspora International Platform was created out of the need to bring together voices of Africans in the diaspora. It is important to learn from each other how we address similar issues and pick out lessons from other successful diaspora organizations.
D.I.P-Africa Aims to provide a platform, a hub where a unified team of Africans will share information about their communities and strengths, and redefine our sense of purpose as Africans living in the diaspora, to harness the power of our diversity
D.I.P-Africa creates the necessary relationship and impact so that All Agencies managing African Affairs can recognize our existence.
D.I.P-Africa serves as a bridge -Outsource and implementing between County and diaspora community-
As a Director of Operations and Host at This Time Africa Media, What have been the challenges and the success stories?
As you are aware there are general challenges that we in the media faced whether it is print or mass media. The life threats to people in the media, lack of transparency. As a new channel, people are always looking for already big names while we are also looking for big names that will make us big (Laughs and Laugh continues )
Data privacy- with the world of social media, people are concerned about their data privacy and lastly financial- challenge. However, the focus and vision are to continue and we will, despite a lot of these challenges we have received great success stories of Africans who have succeeded in creating great businesses and are business entrepreneurs making headlines, those living in abroad who have entered the political field, religious, art and music industry, etc., We have interviewed representatives in government and others in public or private industries and one of them is Africans greatest entertainer Kweku Amoako who runs the Afropolitan cities. He was interviewed by BBC and This time Africa Media.
Women supposed to be celebrated every day for their selfless contribution to the community but there is low level of participation of women in politics, As Electoral Judge at MD State Board of Elections, do you wish to contest in the future?
This is a very interesting question and one that I have been asked several times. I have been approached by people and I have had, and continue to have that conversation. I have passion and drive for change. Maybe I should not use the word change or I should say improvement. I believe that with my experience I am able to bring improvement to any government in my country. The idea of running for a seat or becoming a cabinet minister of some sort is something I toy and pray about daily.
The primary thing is to look at it in a way of service. How can I serve my country with everything including knowledge and experience that God has helped me acquired. The proportion of women has to increase. I believe God gave some of us the opportunity to come overseas to improve ourselves. Remember that I was in Sierra Leone before the war and during the war and made my contribution to society.
“So the impact is there and the memory of my service no matter how small lingers on. I want to say with all humility that Sierra Leone enjoys the peace it has today because of some of us. Seah Matilda Banga alias Sia Domingo) who sacrificed our lives for peace to return, and democracy to prevail”
Having served as an electoral judge for several years I have learned the importance of voting rights, justice, and fairness. I have also acquired the discipline of the sensitivity of voting and how it should be taken seriously. The numbers determine the choices of the people. When it is not handled correctly it overturns the desires of the popular vote.
You are the President at ONE CHILD IN NEED, what are the vision and mission of this great concept?
The 12 years of civil war in Sierra Leone left many women and children unprepared for the burden and responsibilities that came after the war. With absolutely nothing to start from, these young children are left with no alternative but to either prostitute or sell wares on the streets, or become beggars. It touched and continues to touch my heart to see this.
One child in need was born out of the need to help reach children and bring a smile to their faces but in particular children in the rural areas, the vision statement of One child is to change the community, at a time by each one reaching one child in need.
This year 2022 we shall focus more on this organization.
With your leadership role and vast experience working with international organizations, what are the needs in Africa? What will it take to build entrepreneurship and employment in Africa? And what are you trying to do to move the needle?
Firstly let me tap Africa on the back because we have made strides globally, there are improvements, achievements to show our journey to success, considering the fragmented economy, brainwash we inherited.
What we need is to have a new mindset that we are great and we are able to be independent and you can see it from what is going on today. Mali is redeeming itself. The idea of gaining independence from colonialism is not enough. We must sustain our independence by getting the right leader- this is a big term being used every day but if we have a compassionate leader one who has integrity and is accountable to his/her people.
One of the things I intend to do in my country is to start a patriotic campaign. I’m not sure you saw what happened at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON2021), but all of the Sierra Leoneans came together. If we place patriotism as a priority, I am not saying it will change immediately, but it will enhance change.
What am I doing to move the needle Is to make my voice heard in different quarters (I don’t even think I am doing enough) but this is top on my list this year. I want to go back to working with the grassroots, training, advocacy, and leadership development.
African Development Magazine would like to be part of your team, partnering with international agencies and showcasing your activities, will you give us this chance to promote African continent?.
I think this will be a worthy cause. We should be in partnership to work together on issues that affect Africa and how we can contribute positively to bring a change. There are international organizations that will help us on the project.
African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?
I am a big believer in African Traditions and Culture. This is what makes us unique. From the clothes we wear, our accent, our respect for elders, to the depth of other traditions, I believe and love the culture and hope that our generation and generations after us can maintain the culture. Life is about identity. Our culture and tradition is our identity. I learned from school reading a literature book of Okonwo that he who brings kola brings life and I believe in the sharing. I miss the days when we all sat around the big tray and ate together. (Even though I was being bullied) but it was great it brought about love and unity.
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us most amazing memory?
Oh wow!!! One of the most unforgettable moments was my ordination. It was the icing to the cake of my book (in the making) from politics to pulpit making the demanding bridge between religion and politics.
Secondly, when the Ambassador of the African Union Arikana Chiombori received and honored us. Just receiving that pin, recognizing what we do in community development gave me the chills.
What advice would you give the younger ones?
Pursue it until it happens. Be an example of good and stay positive. My experience is that for every level of leadership there is a challenge. Be strong enough in the time of storm and know it will pass do not give up. Take God along with you in everything you do. Do not try to be someone else. Do not let the noise of the market drown your dream. Hold fast to your dream. Be part of the change.
Build relationships, build communities, build for change.
Thank you for sharing with African Development Magazine.
Thank you too. I appreciate so much.