By: Theriyeh Koroma-Nenneh- Feminist Movement Leader/ Communications Professional
At the age of 18, the thought of travelling to the United States of America held a special allure, but by the time I turned 28, it marked the initiation into a profound journey connecting me to my African ancestors’ magnificent legacy. New York City’s towering skyscrapers and bustling activity amazed me, a stark contrast to my quiet Sierra Leone hometown. Yet, it felt like a practical experience from cinematic visuals that had long painted my perceptions of iconic landmarks, including the renowned Times Square. It was as though I had witnessed it all before, in the realm of imagination.
Yet, my visit to the USA carried a more profound purpose beyond the role of a mere tourist; I was there to work, collaborate with my team and participate at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 2023). I work as the Communications Officer for the Children’s Rights Innovation Fund, a global philanthropic organization building power with and moving money toward children and youth activists challenging the deep-seated legacies of racism and colonialism across Africa, the Caribbean, and America.
We co-costed a UNGA side event focused on the empowerment of adolescent mothers, forging partnerships aimed at eradicating poverty, and we did so in collaboration with esteemed donor partner organizations like Population Council, and Purposeful.
The opportunity to participate in a climate change protest in New York was a moment infused with passionate activism. The palpable energy of the diverse crowd unified in their resounding call for climate action, resonated deeply with me. Here, under the vast umbrella of activism, age, race, and background mattered not; we all rallied around a common concern—the dire repercussions of climate change, coupled with the lamentable lack of decisive action. Standing there, I felt like a small but essential part of a global movement for change.
However, it wasn’t just about voicing concerns; it was a resounding call for accountability. When my placard bore the impassioned message “Biden: Declare Climate Emergency!”, it was a plea for concrete solutions from the United States, a nation ranked among the world’s largest contributors to fossil fuel emissions. Despite Sierra Leone’s comparatively minor carbon footprint, the devastating effects of climate change loomed large, exacerbating challenges such as limited access to education for girls and the heightened vulnerability of women and girls to gender-based violence.
One aspect of my time in the United States that struck me profoundly was the omnipresence of taxation. Whether it was sales tax or income tax, it seemed that every transaction was subject to some form of financial contribution to the government. This stark contrasted with the tax system I knew in Sierra Leone and served as a poignant reminder of the vast economic disparities between nations.
While I was admittedly startled by the reality that a pair of water bottles could cost $12, with an additional $3 tacked on as tax, I couldn’t help but reflect on how this effective tax management played a pivotal role in shaping the quality of life for American citizens. With well-developed transportation systems, access to quality healthcare, well-maintained infrastructure, and robust public services, it was evident that there were valuable models Sierra Leone could consider adopting for its own progress.
When I served as a panelist at the UNGA special weekly press edition hosted by my country’s Ministry of Information and Civic Education, I seized the opportunity to emphasize the critical need for Sierra Leone to fortify its institutions. This is because I believe that a governance framework where institutions wield greater influence than individuals promises not only responsible stewardship but also the advancement and well-being of Sierra Leone’s citizens. In underscoring this point, I stressed the significance of nurturing a government rooted in empathy and prepared to embrace positive models. It was a moment to voice not just my aspirations but the collective dreams for the future of my beloved country.
In my journey from Sierra Leone to the USA for UNGA 2023 and work related matters, I found inspiration and purpose.
It’s clear that global challenges require collective action and empathy. As I stood on the world stage, I realized the power of advocacy and the need for change. This experience has reinforced my belief in the possibility of a better world. Let us all be agents of change, united in our efforts to create a more equitable and sustainable future.
Dream, but also act, for in our collective actions, we pave the way for a better tomorrow. Together, we can shape a brighter tomorrow for all.