May 18, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has concluded a two–day engagement of women on the theme ‘Women’s participation in Sierra Leone: Lessons learnt from 2018 Electoral process.’
The workshop, held at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, brought together different women’s group to discuss challenges they encountered during the just concluded elections and to proffer solutions for subsequent elections.
Speaking during the workshop, National Women’s Leader of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Fatmata Sawaneh, stated that President Julius Maada Bio was willing to giving anything for women in Sierra Leone.
She told the packed conference hall dominated by women that the president had been well briefed about the workshop, adding that the issue of women would be core to the president’s vision as enshrined in his New Direction document.
“One thing I will tell you, the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, even within my party, knows that women fought for him,” she said.
Madam Sawaneh remarked that former President Koroma failed to pass the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill, but that his successor would be making a mark in women’s empowerment.
“And because he is willing to make a mark, that’s why I have asked them that we get the bill, get to parliament and we take it up from there. But I know my president will be willing,” Madam Sawaneh promised.
She maintained that, already, the new president has started delivering on women’s empowerment by appointing female ministers.
“I assure you that my president will give the women their quota as far as it is the right of them, and he is willing to do that. We are not going to do anything wrong or outside the law but within the law and what is right. What we promised we are going to deliver,” the SLPP Women’s Leader boasted.
She urged the women participants to present the Equality Bill to the new president, adding that she strongly believes that he would give it his assent.
Dr. Fatou Taqi, President of 50/50 Group, said that during the elections, they raised awareness and embarked on sensitisation and advocacy campaigns, adding that they encouraged women countrywide to register by using community language, road shows, amongst others.
She said the 50/50 group was desirous of encouraging political party leaders to ensure the attainment of the 30% quota for female representation, but that didn’t materialise.
“Our challenges were funding for consistent engagement, lack of political will, attempted intimidation and threats, internal party political dynamics,” Dr. Taqi said, adding that education and knowledge inhibitions for women was another of their challenge.
She concluded that they would continue to encourage political party leaders to put female aspirants in winnable sits.