Isha’s Tejan-Cole or Johansen, depending on how long one may have been following her trailblazing achievements in the entertainment, publishing, fashion and football industry has come a long way in breaking barriers as far as Sierra Leones narrative is concerned.
As far back as the early nineties before Sierra Leone’s civil war, she was the first Sierra Leonean publisher with a coloured magazine called RAPTURE MAGAZINE. It captured the International media interests and courted international celebrities like boxing legend Muhammon Ali, super model Iman, head of States ,and many more. She was also the first to host The PINK BALL Breast Cancer Awareness Ball, donating two Mammogram and an Ultra Sound machine for less privileged women in Sierra Leone. One cannot forget the Women of Excellence Awards also celebrating and giving recognition to women from all walks of life.
Twenty years ago, she embarked on another humanitarian venture which a youth community football club was called FC Johansen. The trials and tribulations of this journey story of this life changing venture is unrivalled in Sierra Leone football history and its achievements in terms of changing Sierra Leone’s International war torn history remains etched in many global media and football forums.
Fatma Samoura also a seasoned United Nations Career diplomat spanning over two decades and speaks over five international languages fluently has worked in several countries including Sierra Leone and in different continents with a focus of bringing positive social change to lives and communities around the world.
It therefore should come as no surprise that fate or perhaps Gods purposeful will brought the two women together to work in an institution which has a second to none power to change lives and communities in a positive way.
The need for influential patriotic citizens to increase their diplomatic presence and visibility at the international stage is ever increasing in an interconnected world that we live in today. Change Makers globally forge strategic Partnerships with likeminded individuals with the aim of fostering and strengthening relations, accelerating foreign direct investments through sports and other economic activities, increasing education and cultural exchanges.
Since his assumption into Public office in 2013, Madam Isha Johansen has emphasized the need for forging strategic partnerships and working together because she believes in the philosophy of having no Monopoly over Knowledge.
One of such relations that has blossomed exceptionally under her reign as SLFA President and FIFA Council Member is her ties with Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura – a friendship built on mutual trust and respect, progress, and development. This article discusses some of the major highlights of collaboration between the two Global Female Football Icons and how those interventions have helped to heighten the bonds of friendship.
Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura became the first woman and first non-European to be appointed in 2016 as FIFA Secretary General. Before working at FIFA, she had spent more than two decades working for the United Nations as a diplomat
Since 2016, there has been several high-level visits between Isha Johansen and Fatma Samoura in a bid to foster cooperation.
Madam Samoura visited Freetown in 2016 to resolve tension between Sierra Leone Football Association Local authorities and the government. At a period marred with infighting in Sierra Leone Football, FIFA disapproves of governmental interference in the running of football and has banned several countries in the past for such actions.
A memorandum of understanding was later signed during Samoura’s visit, set up by an investigative committee approved by FIFA. as a basis for establishing the framework for Peace and cooperation amongst the Football Family – a move that is already yielding ripe fruits
On April 2021, Madam Samoura was also in Sierra Leone to support the Sierra Leone Football Association’s Football For Peace initiative with the Mano River Union and UNDP in Sierra Leone. Samoura had served in Sierra Leone during the country’s Civil war as a United Nations diplomat. The rationale behind the initiative by FIFA Council Member Madam Johansen seek to kick start a pledge that will strengthen economic development ties between the sub regional countries [Sierra Leone , Liberia, and Ivory Coast by using football as a common force for Peace and Reconciliation.
The delegation also signed five Memoranda of Understanding with the Government of Sierra Leone, as a basis for establishing the framework for Peace and cooperation amongst the Football Family – a move that is already yielding ripe fruits.
Fashion For Change And the Commissioning of Football for Reform Training and Skills Centre
Fashion for Change is a Sierra Leonean non-Profit Organisation focused on using the fashion industry as a medium to bring about change in a society with a particular focus on female inmates.
On the 27th April 2021, Fatma Samoura and Isha Johansen Paid a visit to the Freetown Female Correctional Center. They took with them gifts of footballs and playing kits .The female inmates presented them with gifts and of handmade accessories. An unspoken bond was instantaneous bond was formed between the women and the inmates.
Football was going to be the driving force and the tool Samoura and Johansen would use to enhance Positive Change and Gender empowerment.
June 2nd, 2023 saw the handing over of a newly constructed Football for Reform Training and skills center that will be equipped with sewing machines, some specifically for intricate embroidery.
The commissioning of the football for reform training and skills centre was done by the former president and her team, a centre that was constructed with support from “ Fashion for Change” and FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura. Fashion For Change is an initiative using Football as a tool to promote social Change and Positive rehabilitation.
During the unveiling ceremony, Madam Johansen reveals that she is the driving force behind this but nothing works alone. She thanked the Fashion for change group for their tremendous support. She pointed out that the rationale behind setting up skills centre is about reforming the inmates using football.
Madam Johansen states “I want to thank the officers , I want to thank the correctional Centre. This is a correctional Centre. It has it rules and regulations . The women who stays here are offenders and it is not for us to say they are right or wrong. These are women and men who should not be in society at least for now but never has there been a time when Col. Ngaujah, Madam Suzan and every other officers here restricted us”
In her words of encouragement to the inmates Samoura states “I believe that this is not only the beginning in terms of your rehabilitation and empowerment, and that the sky will be your limit”
Madam Samoura has been a strong supporter of the need for reforms and Gender Empowerment for the young girls in the correctional Centre. Both women in their private capacities have given financial support to the Centre for the young women, Samoura had earlier, made a generous donation of five thousand dollars to the inmates.
Production in this new skills training facility will vary with items such as clothing, accessories, household, to football jersey and training Kits for female teams at club and national level
The Confederation of African Football [CAF] will also provide licensed coaches and referees courses to the correctional center as football’s contributions to empowering young women through football.
Madam Isha Johansen and Fatma Samoura continue to work steadily on other projects in order to support growth, development, and prosperity. This has further been demonstrated by their recent Invitation to the London Fashion week on 16th September, 2023. A galaxy of A-list top personalities from around the world will be in attendance to pay homage to the world of glamour and fashion.
This is a blossoming friendship and with Madam Isha Johansen in the driving seat at FIFA council in Zurich, this bond can only get better.