By Hawa Amara
Although International Women’s Day was celebrated on 8 March globally, with the climax of celebrations in Sierra Leone attracting a presidential visit to Pujehun district, Women’s Center for Good Governance and Human Rights Sierra Leone (WOCEGAR-SL) last Thursday celebrated the event with women from Port Loko and Makeni at Pastoral Center in Makeni.
Speaking at the ceremony, Executive Director of WOCEGAR, Mary Y. Conteh said International Women’ Day was about celebrating women who have done remarkable things in their respective countries, especially working with women in rural communities.
She day the day was set aside to demonstrate that women should not to be neglected, rather they should participate in all forms of decision making and governance.
While giving a background of organization, Arun S. Conteh said it was founded in order that women would know their right and take steps to protect those rights in the country, and the providing empowerment to rural women to be able to participate in governance in their various communities.
“For long time in the country women were considered as local farmers and house wives,” he said, adding that the organization also seeks to protect human rights of women and to help them secure enhanced livelihoods.
A representation from the Ministry of Social Welfare and Children’s Affair in Bombali District, Ms. Lucy Massaquoi said 8 March was declared by the United Nations as International Women’s Day so that women’s rights and challenges affecting them could be addressed.
Councillor Abdul S. Bangura from Port Loko noted that women from his district are pretty much vulnerable to human rights violations and gender and sexual abuses. He said women’s status was improving in the country, although the 30% quota is not enough, and that government should increase women’s participation in decision making.
He urged Sierra Leonean women to work as a team to push forward their demands for equally and equity treatment as their male counterparts.
His call for unity among women was reiterated by Councillor Memuna Smart from Makeni, who also encouraged women to fight for their rights and push forward the equalitygoal.
A consultant for the organization, Joseph Lansana presented a communiqué to members of the Constitution Review Committee, tasked with reviewing the country’s 1991 constitution. The document had key resolutions, including empowering women in their participation in governance and human rights in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Lansana revealed that WOCEGAR, with support from Trocaire, had concluded a training needs assessment for marginalised women in rural communities in Makarie Gbanti, Bombali distrcit and new Maforki in Port Loko district, geared towards dentify the needs of women with a view to promoting their rights and increased participation in the governance process and structures in their community, as well as to advocate for services that would advance their status in the community.
He said that during the training, the women identified and recommended that rural women in the country must have access to adult education in their community, the promotion of girl child education and training for rural women on good governance, entrepreneurship and business development.
He said the women recommended that the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) should include in their recommendations that women should be protected from all forms of modern day slavery, including sexual and gender based violence; that government should fully implement the CEDAW protocol, to discourage discrimination based on gender and tribe in political and public life and sexual identity, while emphasis should be placed on 30% quota for women in governance.
On his part a member of the eighty man CRC, David Ngaiteh Kamara, assured the women that the communiqué would be presented to the Committee for their attention and action.
He said the Committee will be meeting people in rural communities, and urged them to participate in the revision of the constitution.