The WARRIOR CELL! Overcoming the odds to become Miss Sierra Leone 2019

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Born some 25 years ago in Cassell Farm, Kissy, Freetown and raised by a single parent (her mother), it was not until at age nine that she was diagnosed with sickle cell.

Sickle cell is a disease that causes severe pain, acute chest syndrome and even stroke. It is estimated to affect around 2% of Sierra Leoneans and considered a major public health concern with about 80% of children with sickle cell anaemia not reaching their 5th birthday (credit: Medical Assistance Sierra Leone-MASL).

But Margaret Cassel is a fighter; a warrior with an indomitable spirit. And there’s no stopping her; not even this dreaded disease. On the several occasions she had been admitted, she had come out stronger and ever determined to live her life. The most severe was at age 21 when she almost lost her life, but Margaret would never give up. She missed many exams at the N’jala University while battling with the disease, but she persevered and eventually graduated with a BSc in Home Economics and Community Development together with her batch of Class of 2017.

“Margaret Cassell has always proven in class, as well as in community outreach programmes, to have the ability and capability to proceed with her educational pursuit amidst the huge challenges that confronted her health. Having known her for over four years now, she is certainly studious, courageous, out-going and very diligent in her academic and personal aspirations,” says her former Supervisor, Raymond Rashid Momoh, Lecturer, Department of Agricultural Extension & Rural Sociology School of Agriculture, Njala University, Njala Campus, Sierra Leone.

Margaret’s mother, Florence Sesay, says it’s difficult to explain how she feels as a mother every time her daughter is knocked by the disease.

“All I can say is that Magaret is a different breed of sickle cell patients. She’s a very strong lady with a special will power and she has demonstrated that since she was diagnosed with the disease. Every time she’s knocked down by the disease she will get up stronger and determined to defy all the odds,” explains Florence.

Now, Margaret will be representing the Western Area Urban in this year’s Miss Sierra Leone Beauty Pageant (2019). She says she’s in the competition to represent the voices of the less-cared for, the unforgotten and the underprivileged. Over the past few months, as a volunteer at the Ola During Children Hospital, she has seen children battling with the sickle cell disease, and like herself, they have shown the fighting spirit to defeat the disease.

“It is because of those kids, people with disabilities, women and babies that have been sexually abused, the underprivileged and all of you that have suffered from one cause or another that I am in this competition.

“I want to stand at the international stage and be your voice; the voice of the voiceless. Because I know your pain,” says Margaret.

On World Sickle Cell Day 2019, Margaret found time to screen kids and adults for the disease at the Ola During Children Hospital. She also featured on local television talking about the disease and her life as a Sickler. Her message urged people to know their genotype and to marry someone compatible, which is the only way to prevent the disease.

Margaret has been passionately pursuing her dreams of becoming a model, a role model and a super model. She was 2nd runner-up at Miss West Africa Sierra Leone, held at the Radisson Blu Garden, on 26th December, 2018. She also participated in the FACE of AFRICA 2019 Modelling competition held in the Gambia on the 3rd of May 2019. Out of 28 models, she was in the top 5 selected for commercial category and the model with the highest votes. Magaret grew up in the Gambia between 1999 and 2012.

“I want to use my voice to advocate for those who are not being able to go through what I have been through. I want to tell them that, yes it might be difficult, it might be challenging, you can be raised by a single parent, you can go through different types of terminal illness but you can triumph over all. There’s so much I want to tell the world about my story and that I am a warrior,” says Margaret.

And for Margaret, winning the Miss Sierra Leone 2019 Crown will give her the right platform for her advocacy and will represent the beginning of a new chapter of her awesome story of survival.

Can we take a critical scan at Miss Sierra Leone 2018?

Social and political analyst, and lecturer, Paul A. Conteh, assesses the just concluded Miss Sierra Leone 2018 Beauty Pageant, and how education and tourism impacts the entertainment industry and development in the country.

A case for event management, academic enhancement & tourism investment


Author: Paul A. Conteh is a public affairs analyst, Octopussian Library & Lab Lecturer at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone

Fans from different spheres of life converged @ Bintumani Hotel over the weekend. Their mission was to celebrate the crowning of Miss Sierra Leone 2018. The organizers of this event gave their best to offer guests a great entertainment experience. In what happened to be a good evening, the various actors have several areas they need to watch, learn, and make an improvement.

Event Management:

The organizers of Miss Sierra Leone 2018 did their best with the scarce resources, time, and personnel available at their disposal. They secured the prestigious Bintumani Hotel, attracted several sponsors, and ensured the security of attendees was a guarantee. They assembled contestants from every region in the country. This was the work of productive patriotic persons.

However, there were aspects in event management that they need to improve on. The organizers dropped the ball in ensuring fans in the VIP section had what they paid for. This led to continuous grumbling from that section of the audience during the show. In addition, the hosts for the occasion were unable to get the crowd engaged for the most part. They never weaved the requisite chemistry to get the crowd involved. Additional concerns were raised on the audition process, program timing, preparation of participants, and the knowledge of judges on beauty pageantry.


Academic Enhancement:

The contest exposed major flaws in our education system. The contestants struggled to stamp their authority during the public speaking session of the program. They gave the crowd an unconvincing performance in the way they each introduced themselves, and answered questions posed by the judges.

The contestants’ performance on the night was a broader reflection of the missing components in Sierra Leone’s academic environment. Our education system in Sierra Leone has neglected public speaking, critical thinking, creative practical arts, and ethical standards from its pedagogical design. This should be a major cause for concern.

Tourism Investment:

Tourism is an area policy-makers need to prioritize. The best of Sierra Leone music, dance, and designs were exhibited. The energy displayed on stage by Sierra Leonean rapper, Yung Sal, was enough to rock the crowd. He portrayed the best part of our entertainment industry. The drummers and dancers did their best for the show to be a celebration of our cultural heritage. The various contestants were dressed by Sierra Leonean designers and designing houses. The crowd showed their gratitude to each of the acts with a round of applause after every public presentation.

Sadly, Sierra Leoneans do not own the major corporations and businesses that sponsored the contest. An Asian-based company in Sierra Leone offered the star prize for the winner of Miss Sierra Leone 2018. The leading sponsoring bodies were not developed around Sierra Leonean led resources and initiatives.

General Impressions:

Miss Sierra Leone 2018 was a great night. The organizers, contestants and hosts can be proud of what was accomplished on that faithful evening. However, there are areas we can learn from as country for continuous national growth and development. For future – the organizers should ensure they work on the details for an event of such magnitude. They need to efficiently prepare the contestants, provide fans with the required services, and invite hosts who can keep the crowd engaged.

Our educational system should go back to its roots. The various institutions should intensify teaching in Creative Practical Arts, English Language & Public Presentation. These courses can improve public speaking, stage composure, and self-confidence of our youths. We should be proud of our music, drama, dance, and design. We can take the challenge a step further by encouraging Sierra Leonean corporations and businesses to take leading role in future events.

Miss Sierra Leone 2018 was a moment of movie and magic. There was clearly a case for an improvement in event management, academic enhancement and local-led tourism investment, especially around program sponsorship. These are areas our newly crowned queen, Sarah Tucker, can help – serve as an advocate.