Ye Saffi poses for a portrait with her daughter Betty. Afterwards she shares her own story while waiting for her grandchildren to return from an errand. She sent them to a neighbor’s shop with some money to buy biscuits for the family. Ye Saffi recalls her previous marriages and explains why she won’t marry again. She also discusses her future plans and gives advice to women.

Ye Saffi's StorY

I married my first husband in 1976 when I was eighteen. The marriage was not my choice. My auntie didn’t have children so she gave me away as her own since her friend wanted me for his brother. She begged me to marry him, explaining that single women who become pregnant will be driven from town. I agreed to marry out of fear. 

My first husband was very handsome but I still didn’t love him at first. Love grew over time after he supported me, treated me very well, and never did anything to wrong me. He would send me to my aunt for Christmas and even helped her with money. He bought anything I would ask for. We had many children together. At one point my first husband lived and worked far away from me to dig diamonds in Boajibu. I had to live with my parents and he slowly began saving money to send us. Sadly he passed away from Malaria as the civil war started in 1991. I became so very sad. 

Two years passed before I married again. I was 35 years old and chose a man for myself this time. Many men wanted me but my second husband stood out because of his handsome features and kindness. I didn’t know his habits until later—he liked to womanize too much. I loved him so I forgave him every time. We were together for four or five years before he left me and remarried in Mile 91. We never divorced and he still claimed me as his family. He visited sometimes and sent money for me. We would sit and talk for a while each time. His wife called me when he died in 2016. After his passing she would sometimes send her greetings to me along with money. A few years later she also passed away and I went to mourn at her funeral. I decided never to remarry because men are not wise these days. They don’t want responsibilities. 

Ye Saffi’s grandchildren return with the biscuits and cheerfully share them with their grandmother. They eat and she continues her story.

I opened a shop in front of my house before my second husband left to Mile 91. He encouraged the idea and helped me to open it. My family and I sell soap, firewood, gari (grated cassava), kola nut, peppers, okra, tomato paste, beni (sesame seed), vegetables, and big beans. People buy and the business does very well. Before expanding my business, I’d want to improve our house. The walls have cracked and broken in several places with parts falling off. Even the floor inside needs some work. I hope that my grandkids can help when they grow older. I want them to learn and succeed in school first. 

My advice to girls in Sierra Leone—take your studies seriously. If you can’t do well in school, try to find work as drivers, carpenters, tailors, or painters. Sadly, when you become housewives you will work too hard in your homes and won’t have time to learn trades. It’s a problem.

Ye Saffi poses with a print of her portrait