Sierra Leone’s Isha Johansen Breaking Barriers For Women In Sports


If there is a woman who is breaking barriers in some way in the world, you can be sure we are covering it! There are many industries and arenas which are still largely male-dominated. Sports is one of those, and while many many women play sports and compete at the highest level, they don’t get anywhere near the amount of coverage or pay that the men do.

So when we came across a woman who is charging her way through the barriers and setting a great example, we knew we had to make sure all our readers were familiar with her too.

Her name is Isha Tejan-Cole Johansen, and she is the first female president of Sierra Leone’s football association and was appointed to the position in 2013. Since it’s inception in 1967, the association has never seen a woman at its helm, but Isha isn’t just any girl, either.

With her current title which enables her to be a history-maker in her own country, she is also the only female football association president in the WORLD! But it doesn’t end there for this world-changer. She is the owner and CEO of the Sierra Leone National Premier League club FC Johansen, named after her Norwegian husband Arne Birger Johansen.


She created the club in 2002 with the objective of giving hope to a group of young footballers, using sport as a means of channeling their energy into a positive healthy direction. Today, she is a well-known name in Sierra Leone, who some call “the iron lady”.

We love that she is a female pioneer, but using her opportunities to help young boys in the community learn how to live a positive life. It is a beautiful example of different generations and both genders working together to make a change.

Many of these boys are orphans and some have gone on to trial at world famous soccer clubs Manchester United and Chelsea in England. Isha has taken FC Johansen all over the world and enabled the team to meet legendary players like David Beckham and french great Zinedine Zidane.

“There is nothing more fulfilling than to nurture and watch something or someone grow to fruition. The club FC Johansen and the players grew from total obscurity to oblivion. It was truly a football ‘field of dreams.’” she tells UN Women.


“Integrity is all a woman has. You cannot do it without integrity, sincerity, and commitment.”

It hasn’t always been easy for her, especially because of her gender. But she had a great role to mentor her, her father who holds a stake in Sierra Leonean East End Lions, one of the oldest football clubs in her country’s history.

“It sure did feel lonely being a woman in a male dominated arena trying to steer the leadership in the direction of a new era for football in Sierra Leone. Most of the crew were bent on navigating towards another direction. But you know what? If you can dream it, you can do it and yes, dreams do come true.”

“I have truly come a long way, and I have arrived. I am now not just a national champion, but an international player, and I intend to take [Sierra Leone] all the way to the top.”

Listen to Isha Johansen talking to UN Women about how she feels being a woman known for blazing a trail through West Africa:


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