Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2015
Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff & Aisha Fofanah Ibrahim
Women across our beloved country that is slowly emerging from a year of the devastating EVD, realise that despite all national and international efforts to date, our nation still has a big fight ahead of us.
We know that Ebola can only be defeated when citizens and all arms of government come together to take collective responsibility for our own national health & welfare.
It is in the spirit of sisterly love and solidarity that we hereby make this call to you – our Honourable Women Members of Parliament.
As you prepare to debate the Audit Office report on the management of ebola funds, recently laid before you in Parliament, we kindly ask that you take our following concerns into account:
That you our sisters, Women MPs of Sierra Leone, should insist on a full and frank debate on the Audit Report to take place immediately in the open well of Parliament where the ordinary citizens & voters can come and listen to their elected representatives.
That every female MP who speaks in Parliament on this important national issue acknowledges that she is speaking not only for her constituents, but also for the women of Sierra Leone, who have given them a message that women are disproportionately affected by EVD due to our gender roles.
Thus, we are disproportionately affected by any alleged mismanagement or loss of Ebola funds, and therefore are enormously concerned that the Audit Report and its recommendations should be dealt with seriously by Parliament as a national issue.
That our women MPs condemn in the strongest of terms, a culture of impunity and greed that would lead to the misuse of resources, given to aid in the recovery of our dear people and country.
Such an examination should be free from any interference both in the investigations and the decisions on whether or whom to charge with any criminal offences.
All women MPs should call on the criminal justice system, and especially the judges, to handle any cases charged to court in an honest and fair manner, ensuring that all accused persons are given an adequate opportunity to defend themselves in a free and fair trial.
There should be no ‘mob justice, no scapegoating and no kangaroo courts’.
All women MPs should insist that recovery and return of all Ebola Funds be an urgent priority, because these funds are still needed in the fight against Ebola.
Our sisters in Parliament should also seize this opportunity to call on H.E. the President and Chief Justice to take immediate action in line with section 29(17) of the 1991 Constitution to release the Kono Women detainees, arrested under the Ebola State of Public Emergency or set up a review tribunal to look into the continued detention of these women.
As we look forward to restoration of normalcy across the country, we urge every female MP to call on Dr Christiana Thorpe (Photo) to ensure that Girls and Young Women’s Right to education, is safeguarded and that female students at primary, secondary and tertiary levels are not left out, due to overcrowding concerns when schools reopen.
Honourable Women MPs are asked to use this debate to call on government for speedy action in adopting, passing and implementing the Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) policy and law.
We ask that our Women Parliamentarians commend the Audit Service of Sierra Leone, headed by a woman, for a professional job well done.
We also ask our honourable sisters in Parliament to thank, on our collective behalf, the International Community – including the African Union (AU), for their generous and unflinching support to our country during this crisis.
We ask that they convey to our international partners, a request for continued patience and to travel with us along this difficult road from the chaos of ebola to recovery, good governance, transparency and development.
We wish to make clear that we continue to strongly support our government, the People of Sierra Leone and all partners in the fight to eradicate the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from our country and the entire sub region.
The WRESL Campaign therefore calls on all Sierra Leoneans to work with the government of Sierra Leone, to continue to listen and obey all instructions given to ensure swift and permanent eradication. Ebola is still real and it is still here.
WRESL restates again our sincere and profound appreciation and gratitude to all Health Workers. The nation can never thank them enough for the sacrifices they and their families are making in risking their lives to provide care for the rest of us.
We value their efforts in extremely difficult circumstances and we beg them not to relent. We call on the public to support our gallant health workers especially with prayers, and for Government to ensure prompt payment of improved salaries, risk allowances and NASSIT benefits should that become necessary.
We the members of WRESL Campaign & others have taken the initiative during this crisis, through organised, collective action, at community and national levels, including sensitisation campaigns, installing and operating hand washing facilities in markets, and providing psycho-social and economic assistance to survivors and those in quarantine in their communities.
We have also undertaken national and international advocacy in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325, advocating for women’s concerns and efforts to be recognised and supported, and for our needs and perspectives to be taken into account in post- Ebola outbreak reconstruction and development activities.
We have not asked for or received any money from government for our activities.
Women’s Response to Ebola in Sierra Leone (WRESL) Campaign was launched in July 2014 by a coalition of individuals and women’s groups including the Women’s Forum, the 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone, MARWOPNET, L.A.W.Y.E.R.S, SLPP Women’s Wing, Sky Women’s World Network, CGG, The Sierra Leone Market Women’s Association, Devil Hole Women’s Group, Partners Women’s Commission, AMNET, Christian Aid, NCOMWO, Lemon Aid Fund, Amazonian Women’s Initiative, Soroptimist and Community Response to Ebola, to contribute to and complement government’s efforts to fight against EVD.
End of appeal
Signed: Aisha Fofanah Ibrahim, 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone, +232-78-366-670
Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, MARWOPNET, +232-76-217-767
WRESL Campaign can be reached at 50/50 Headquarters, Rokel Street, Tower Hill, Freetown. Please contact Maseray Koroma on +232-78-005050 to find out how you can support the Campaign.