‘Peace is essential for healthy economic growth…’Joy ObasiÂ
Nigerian born Joy Obasi, 20, was crowned the Ms ECOWAS 2009 at a well attended ceremony in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt and she was also named ECOWAS peace ambassador. She recently visited Sierra Leone as part of her peace mission in West Africa when CEO of salonejamboree.com, Murtala Mohamed Kamara, caught up with her at the Taia Hotel at Lumley beach, Aberdeen, Freetown. (Photo: Joy at the Ms ECOWAS Peace Pageant in Port Harcourt,Nigeria)
In this exclusive interview she elaborated on her peace message for the region.
You won the enviable Ms ECOWAS crown beating other beautiful ladies in the West Africa region. You were also appointed as ECOWAS Peace Ambassador and part of your task is to spread the message of peace in West Africa. What is the peace message you bring to Sierra Leone?
Peace is essential for healthy economic growth and development in our ECOWAS member states and I believe that peace is not just the absence of war but stability and harmony. For peace to prevail amongst us we need to learn to respect each othersâ€™ opinion, beliefs, traditions and culture. The war and hatred amongst one another as seen in Nigeria, the fighting between the Muslims and Christians and in the Northern part of Ghana. These are acts we cannot afford to accommodate and it is of no help to the advancement and achievement of peace throughout our ECOWAS member states. I want to speak to the youth to embrace peace and settle their differences through continued dialogue rather than violence. Most of the crimes, most of the wars that are been carried out are been executed by the youths but I want to speak to their minds and speak to their hearts that there are better ways to solve societal problems. And so I urge them, every one of them, to embrace peaceful resolutions and they should pursue for peace in their sub region. One of the way people go about the wars and all of these is by the use of small arms and thatâ€™s another cause the ECOWAS peace pageant organisation will be pursuing- to eradicate small arms and light weapons. We cannot do this without the help of the youths because they are the leaders of tomorrow. So my message to them is they should embrace peaceful resolution, itâ€™s very important.
Is this the same message you are taking to other countries in the region or you have separate messages for every country you visit?
No, I speak the same message to all because we are all one; although unique in our different ways. So I pass on the same message to every one of them because the problem in one country affects the others.
What is the significance of the Ms. ECOWAS pageant to the youths in the region apart from preaching peace?
We advocate peace, but also we speak especially to the girl child. We encourage them to have self belief; we also encourage parents to ensure their girl child get education. We further encourage our authorities to allow women to take active part in decision making. I know most women are forced into early marriage especially in West Africa. They are exposed to rape, exposed to harsh living conditions and thatâ€™s as a result of some backward thinking we have. But as I speak to you I think Iâ€™m a good representative of my family and my country and I know a lot of them would want to wear the shoes I am wearing now and a lot of them would want to do better than Iâ€™m doing now. I think itâ€™s also a means to convince our parents that the girls can also contribute to society and let everybody know out there that we are more than just mothers, we are more than just being babysitters, and we are more than just being cooks in our kitchens. We also can contribute meaningfully to the development of our society.
We recently learnt that Sierra Leone has won the right to host this yearâ€™s Ms ECOWAS in November. What do you think this will bring for a post-war country like Sierra Leone whose image has been known for war and atrocities?
I think the first starting point is change. It doesnâ€™t only mean attracting people to Sierra Leone, but it also means economic growth, social growth and otherwise. Itâ€™s a change of mentality; people will come in and see that things are different here and everywhere is peaceful, which is what we advocate for and not only going around preaching peace. We try to make people understand that this is where peace is and this is what is happening right here. This is an opportunity for Sierra Leone and it will help you showcase who you really are and that amongst you there is still love, happiness and determination.
How can we stage a successful Ms ECOWAS here? What are the lessons we need to learn from the past two editions in Nigeria?
One thing I believe in is that whenever something new wants to happen itâ€™s always better than what has happened before. I see a better event coming up for this year. Every plan is been made right now, and everyone is putting his or her own effort to see things work. I believe we are going to have the best event ever.
What places have you visited since you arrived in Sierra Leone and what is your impression?
I have visited the wife of the Vice President and I was at the School for the Blind to make them believe in themselves and to encourage them. They are still part of us even though they cannot see. I want them to believe that they can conquer the world, despite their disability. I was also at the Nigerian embassy. I was warmly received and I think Sierra Leoneans are generally accommodating.
What is your parting word?
I was in Ghana before I came here to Sierra Leone. Just like I said earlier, I bring the message of peace. Letâ€™s change our attitude towards how we relate to each other, how we respect each otherâ€™s ideas and opinions. I will still keep moving forward with this same message. I hope to be in Liberia very soon, probably to Senegal and many other places before I handover my crown to my new queen who will take over from me while I just assist her.
Thank you for talking to us.
Thank you, too.
Name: Joy Obasi
Occupation: Student, University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Major in Microbiology, 300 level.
Height: 5â€œ 11
POB: Abbia State
Interest: Have a passion for the disabled and physically challenged.
Dislike: Looking down on others.
Favourite Quote: â€˜Let each day count for something honourableâ€™ –Joy Obasi
Most memorable moment: 14th November, 2009, the day I was crowned Ms ECOWAS.
Favourite World Cup team: Germany.