From a young age, Chernor Bah noticed his sisters were treated differently. They endured threats of sexual violence. Men asked to marry them while they were still young girls. Most vividly, he remembers his path to education was much less difficult than theirs.
“As we got older, there were signals from many directions suggesting that their lives seemed to matter less, even though I was always convinced they were smarter than me. In retrospect, I can now see what happened: society spend so much time telling them, and girls like them, that there were higher expectations for me only because I was a boy,” Chernor wrote in the Guardian.
Then, Chernor’s family was uprooted during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Moving to camps in Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea, he noted children’s rights, especially girls’, were neglected and their voices left unheard.
Determined to change this, Chernor founded the Children’s Forum Network. Recognizing the unique vulnerability of girls to female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriage and sexual violence, his advocacy addressed gender equality as an essential part of peace building.
In 2012, Chernor was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General to serve as the Youth Representative for the Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative. Using this platform, he rallied youth around the world to respond to Malala Yousefzai’s shooting through a global campaign.
Chernor continues to bring girls’ issues to the front and center. In his role at Population Council, he trains and supports local organizations to develop evidence-based solutions that empower girls and protect them from violence in emergency and post-emergency settings. He also co-founded Purposeful Productions, a company which produces TV soaps, radio dramas and magazines to tell the stories of girls around the world. By harnessing the power of the media, Chernor is changing hearts and minds about the value of a girl’s life and her right to be safe and educated.