19 year-old questions gov’t justice credentials
By Mohamed Massaquoi from Pujehun
A 19 year-old pupil of the Holy Rosary Secondary School in Pujehun, southern Sierra Leone, has lamented the injustices women still continue to endure in the district and the country as a whole, noting that it was timely for the President Ernest Bai Koroma administration to address the menace, especially in rural communities where there are no seating magistrates.
Rugiatu Barrie, while addressing dignitaries including President Koroma, members of the diplomatic community and women groups on the occasion of the International Women’s Day celebration in Pujehun, said though there had been series of efforts on the side of government and international partners to strengthen the capacity of Sierra Leonean women, yet there was an increase in the cases of rap, domestic violence and other heinous crimes against women.
She cited that only recently, a woman was allegedly ganged raped to death while in another separate incident in the Malen Chiefdom, a pregnant women was “murdered in cool blood with little or no effort by the police, neither the court, to bring the perpetrators to justice”.
“Mr. President, where is the justice for Sierra Leonean women,” questioned Ms. Barrie and continued: “There is no resident magistrate in Pujehun, the people are challenged with justice issues. Our teachers teach without salaries, the Holy Rosary used to enjoy the facility of standard library, good infrastructure, among others, but this is completely lacking. How can the women gain their rights with poor educational standard?”
She then presented a position paper to the President on the continuous difficulties women and children go through in the country.
While responding, President Koroma reassured the women of his government’s continuous support to ensure they play an important role in the development of the country. He said his government has strengthened the capacity of women in order to actively participate in governance, pointing out that he has appointed women as head of government ministries and departments and that he was very pleased with their performance.
“Because of our commitment in promoting women, my government has strengthened gender issues in all the pillars in the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’. Because of this, the document has been adopted by so many countries,” noted President Koroma.
“We believe in what we are doing; I want us to step aside and take a stock on the laws we have passed and how we can implement those laws. We have heard about rape and teenage pregnancy; we should now enforce the law. I will continue to warn the men in Sierra Leone that the law will take its course if somebody is found wanting. On the issue of a resident magistrate, we will address it. In fact I am just coming from Nigeria where I made a representation for magistrates and teachers.”
President Koroma encouraged the girl children to study hard and pass their examinations without relying on teachers for promotion.
The occasion brought together women from all walks of life across Sierra Leone to celebrate their achievements and to discuss their challenges.