By Jariatu S Bangura
Members of Parliament have on Tuesday enacted the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act, 2022, with some significant changes and amendments for both genders to benefit equal opportunities.
The bill seeks to increase the gender imbalances by making provisions for increased appointment and election of women and structures so as to achieve the minimum 30% representation, provide for the promotion of gender equality in employment and training, provide for the implementation of gender mainstreaming and for financial institutions to prescribe procedures for the improvement of women’s access to finance, among other matters.
The bill was sent to the Legislative Committee last week to be looked at thoroughly with the advice made by the Speaker of Parliament, with the aim to also pay keen attention to the grey areas that needed attention for the benefits of all.
Among the significant changes that were made was the removal of the definitional words like quota, reserved/safe seats, gender parity, local councils, constituencies, district, locality and wards to name, but a few.
The committee also made some new insertions to the Act for the benefit of all as advised by the Speaker.
The committee recommended that the whole plenary has right to delete the word election offices or leave it as it was presented for the benefit of women.
After the enacted of the law, Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawali, expressed her appreciation that they were pleased with the work done by MPs as they have contributed to the changes that took place in the Act during the legislative and that a lot of the changes came from the ministry following the consultations they had with different stakeholders.
She said the elective office for women has been dealt with in the Public Elections Act,2022 as that was why it was removed from the Gender Act.
She noted that it will have to take time for people to understand what they meant by mainstreaming the bill across all legislations and legal Framework, adding that they were changing and ensuring that the gender requirements and demands are integrated into the legislation.
She said some of the major amendments were already in other laws which means that they would be just referred to in the Gender Act in order to avoid duplications of the same laws.
She stated that the bill is progressive one as they will continue it implementation before the end of the year.
Also, Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass C. Bundu said history has been made by the fifth Parliament and the ruling government by enacting the GEWE Act for the advancement of women towards the attainment of gender equality.
He said above all, a new revolution has been made and commended all those that contributed to bringing that day into fulfillment and reality and sked for divine providences on the achievement made.
He said they looked forward to the fullest implementation of the Act that they have passed in to law.
Marcella Samba-Sesay said there was now security for pregnant women working in both government and private sectors, adding that those issues that were discriminatory to women have now been dealt with so far in the new law.
“I am very happy.This is something worth celebrating and it has laid a landmark for generation to come. It is a society moving towards equality and this is not something unique to Sierra Leone. The whole world has recognized gender as a development question not just as a right, but a right to development and we applaud it greatly,” she expressed.
She said they wanted a re-enforcement to the new law for women to be inclusive when in all positions as it was provided for in the Public Elections Act, 2022. She added that “if for any reason the public Elections Act fails to implement safe seats for women, the Gender Act would have been there to enforce it but be that as it may, there was need now to guard the Public Elections Act 2022 closely because that is where the minimum 30% for elective offices is” .