March 19, 2021
By Alhaji Haruna Sani
The Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, in partnership with the 50/50 Group and Women’s Forum- Sierra Leone, has organized a two-day national women’s conference with the theme “Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Sierra Leone”.
The conference commenced yesterday at the New Brookfields Hotel in Freetown and scheduled to end today, March 19th.
The women’s sub theme is; Employ us! Appoint us!, Elect us! And “Make Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment a right for all’.
Mayor of the Freetown City Council, Yvonne Aki-Saywer noted with dismay the progression and retrogression of women’s participation and empowerment in the political landscape in Sierra Leone, adding that the previous Parliament in 2012 had more women Parliamentarians than the present parliament.
“We hold up half the sky, let’s let hold up the leadership,” she urged.
In her keynote address,Justice Miatta Samba of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, who also doubles as a judge of the International Criminal Court, thanked all and sundry for making gender equality and women empowerment a reality in the country.
The conference, she said, will give opportunity to meet as women in society and collectively put ideas and resources together to ensure effective implementation of gender equality and women empowerment policy that was launched by President Bio.
She tailored the theme of the conference in three thematic areas which includes the general position of women since independence, attempt made at remedying the position of women and the current effort made by the dispensation to build upon previous efforts of past government in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone.
‘’We have, in the past, faced cultural traditional challenges: as women we were not allowed ‘to talk in public’, fora; we were always expected to take a back sit. The preference was for our brothers to get educated and the girl child was subjected to be a domestic servant who was groomed to bear children at a very early age, no matter how clever that girl child was, and that marked the end of any possibility for her being educated and/or realizing any precious potential she had,’’ she said.
She noted that society deprives women of certain opportunities such as being given serious jobs, political appointment and vying for certain office positions. In some tradition, she said, the wife is part of the man’s property or estate, noting that men will divorce their wife without proper compensation.
Former president of 50/50 Group Sierra Leone, Dr. Aisha Fofanah Ibrahim, thanked the Minister of Gender and Children Affairs, Ms. Manty Tarawallie and the EU for partnering with 50/50 to host such conference.
“Empowering women for political and other forms of leadership is what we do exceptionally well at 50/50, as such we are excited and grateful that after a prolonged advocacy, we now have a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy and expecting a related Act that will help to enhance women’s political participation and ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment at all level,’’ she said.
She extended appreciations to the Ministry of Gender and the EU for their support ‘Beyond the Politics of Men Project’, a three year project that hopes to empower women to be Effective Political Actors in Sierra Leone. She encouraged women to step up to leadership in a misogynistic society.
‘’We are disheartened and enraged by the reality that some women in leadership are being intimidated, bullied and attacked just for doing their jobs. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated,’’ she said.
The Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Gender and Children’s Affairs,Hon.Catherine Z. Tarawally, thanked the Minister of Gender,Manty Tawarallie, for her astute leadership and promised their commitment and strong support in working closely with the minister.
She promised, on behalf of her colleague female Parliamentarians, to take a different approach by introducing a private Men Commission on Safe Seat Bill which will be piloted by the President of Sierra Leone Female Parliamentary Caucus Committee, Hon. Veronica K Sesay.
She added that despite the female population in the country is 52%, those in the work force are less than 15%.
She informed women present in the conference about the Affirmative Drafted Bill, which she explained will lay a solid foundation for women because it encompasses all the sectors of society.
She noted that the Affirmative Action will be looked with a different in the male chauvinism and patriarchal.
EU Deputy Head of Delegation – Jamila El Assaidi, commended the Government of Sierra Leone especially the President for the launch of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment policy and for taking steps in the right direction to bring women of Sierra Leone closer to leading the future and leading their futures.
“Let me also commend all actors and organisations involved in the formulation of the policy. It is a comprehensive policy that addresses the right priorities and challenges that are still in front of us in order to ensure more gender parity and effective empowerment of women: the need for political will and decisive political steer, the need for implementation and coherence of legal frameworks and policies, the need for gender mainstreaming, the need for funding, the need for affirmative action,” she said.
She cited women’s participation in political life as one of the priorities that should be discussed for the day.
“We need all minds on deck and focused to make this happen because the road ahead is still a long one.The discussion on this topic is also very timely in the context of the revival of the Constitutional Review. The Government of Sierra Leone has made commitments to introduce the necessary provisions in the Constitution to ensure that a minimum percentage of women can get elected. From the point of view of the EU, we believe that all political players should rally around the right proposals that will allow effective increase of women’s representation in elected positions.”
She stated that the EU places human rights at the centre of its relations with all third countries,adding that while firmly based on universal norms, the EU’s policy on human rights is adapted to the circumstances of each country, not least through the development of country specific human rights strategies.
“Specifically, the EU budget finances an Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), designed to support civil society to become an effective force for political reform and defence of human rights. In that respect, we proudly joined forces with the 50/50 Group and Search for Common Ground for a project to empower women who are interested in pursuing political representation at local and national levels to be effective political actors in in Sierra Leone.”