Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 January 2023:
Last Thursday, President Julius Maada Bio signed a new Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill 2022, known also as the GEWE Act 2022, that is seeking to open up the country’s political space and establish a level playing field for women in politics.
Political parties are now required to ensure that 30% of their candidates for parliamentary and local council elections are women.
Of the 146 MPs in the country’s parliament, only 12.3% are currently women, and advocates of women’s rights are hoping that this new law will encourage more women to enter politics.
According to recent census survey, there are more women (over 50%) in the country than men, yet like most African countries men dominate and control the economic, political, and social life of the country.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, President Bio said: “For me, women’s economic empowerment and protection are not political rhetoric. Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities, and countries. Women can reach their full potential when they live safe, fulfilled, productive lives.
“When I became President, I proclaimed that gender is firmly on my New Direction Agenda. The future of Sierra Leone is female; we must do all it takes to facilitate the timely, full, and unconditional inclusion of women in our national life, governance, and development,” he said.
President Bio is hoping that with the new gender empowerment law, barriers to parliamentary representation will be removed.
He said he is looked forward to a more vibrant and diverse parliament with greater numbers of women and women’s voices; urging all political parties to go beyond the legal minimum of the number of women when they compile their proportional representation lists ahead of the elections in June this year.
The president said his government has taken on deep-rooted and complex challenges confronting women in the country, and has introduced progressive policies and measures, reviewing existing laws and proposing new legislations to promote gender equality.
He told the well-attended event, which attracted people from the private sector, gender activists, women’s leaders and girls as well as development partners and representatives from the diplomatic community, that as a government they want to work in partnership to create more jobs for women, establish business cultures that promote diversity and inclusion and invest in training programmes tailored to create more job opportunities for women.
“Can we do more? Yes, and this Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act, which I am signing into law today, will now address the gender imbalances in this country comprehensively.
“The key provisions of this law speak to the principles of inclusion, representation, participation, and a more responsive posture on gender. These include at least 30% representation in Cabinet; at least 30% representation in Parliament; at least 30% of all appointments as Ambassadors/High Commissioners; at least 30% of all positions in Local Councils; at least 30% of all jobs in the Civil Service; at least 30% of all jobs in private institutions with 25 and more employees; maternal leave extended from 12 weeks to 14 weeks; and financial inclusion for women.
“Mainstreaming of the gender requirements across all sectoral policies and legal frameworks; gender responsive budgeting; gender units in every Planning Directorate within MDAs; and the creation of a multi-sectoral Gender Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of the GEWE Act,” he said.
President Bio also paid tribute to his late mother, whom he called Yei Amie. “I have often told the story of my humble and selfless mother, Yei Amie Navo Bio, who, upon my father’s passing, bore the burden of raising our family and inculcating in us the work ethic and sense of service I am privileged to have today.
“She and other resilient women in my family formed the foundation upon which I stand. They come from a long history of Sierra Leonean women who have been the foundation of our people and communities as mothers, leaders, warriors, educators and, very crucially, peacemakers,” he said.
He said that there is no path to a democratic, free, stable and prosperous society that does not include women’s central and uninhibited participation, adding that they could not have written the history of Sierra Leon’s democracy without mentioning the role of the brave women who risked and sometimes lost their lives to fight for peace.
“From Queen Nyarroh of Bandasuma (modern-day Bandajuma), a warrior, a leader, a mediator and a peacemaker; to Madam Yoko, one of our most prominent historical leaders and a notable mediator; to the prominent Madam Nenge of Baoma Chiefdom born into a hierarchy of warriors…to Adelaide Casely-Hayford who fought for the rights of women, the preservation of African cultural heritage and formulated a plan for girls’ education over 100 years ago; to Constance Cummings-John, who pushed for vocational education of girls and was the first woman in Africa to join a municipal council in 1938. The list is endless.
“This story is why now that we have a stable and peaceful Sierra Leone, we cannot afford to have women, who make up 52% of our population, not featuring prominently in politics and leadership. Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Women’s rights are not about making women better or stronger?” he asked.
Manager and Head of Office at UN Women in Sierra Leone, Setcheme Jeronime Mongbo said, “Gender has to be a priority on the president’s agenda to be able to gather this VIP crowd. Thank you, Mr. President. Equality means a state of being equal in status, rights, and opportunities”.
She said that while the world is not on track to achieving equality by 2030, she is however certain that the GEWE Act 2022 is shortening the road for Sierra Leone to make huge progress because the government has set a ground-breaking precedent for women’s rights and equality in the region.
Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Claire Buckley, said, “This is evidence of His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio’s true and passionate commitment to gender equality and women’s rights. Ireland and Sierra Leone are partners with a shared commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and the gender policy, empowering women and girls, and ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls”.
“Today, we are one step closer to that goal. When women and men do not have equal access to resources or equal opportunities to take part in decision-making, there are direct economic and social costs”.
Hahaha hahaha. Sierra Leone is something else. I have come to the conclusion that we (Sierra Leoneans) , have the lowest intelligent quotient on the African continent in terms of logic. Women’s equality? Don’t make me laugh. Please go to Lumley beach on a Saturday night. Its full of prostitutes ranging from 13 years upwards or check out the 9 year old girl selling groundnuts at 11pm on the beach. Poverty is the issue in Sierra Leone not women’s rights. How dumb can we be? To finish, let us not blame anyone for our woes, the rulers are representatives of the people and in our okada, keke degeneration from trains, buses, and planes. Its plain to see; that the rustics have taken over with the aim of transforming Freetown into a big village with motorbikes and speedboats as the mode of transport instead of ferries and cars.
Realistically, when you have a country of 26,000 sq miles and people are killing themselves over less than 3% of the land ( Freetown), are we dumb or blind? We have vast lands in the interior, yet we squash like cockroaches in Freetown. Monopolies: only Shalimar has the right to bring in kekes, this monopolistic system extends to essential items. This is nonsense, has Maada Bio never heard of a free market?This country is beyond redemption and eventually the Nigerians,Guinean, and Lebanese will inherit the land.
Let’s be clear, this apparent change of heart and commitment by President Bio to enact and signed into law the Gender Equality and women’s Empowernent Bill Act 2022, is welcomed by all means if the process of delivering it is enforced rigorously with out any interference by the very government that have spent it’s last four years prosecuting high profile women in our country on trumpeted charges ,or in some cases politically motivated vandattea and witchcraft politics that Bio have mastersted . Is this the road to Damascus moment on women’s rights, for Bio to suddenly realised Women can play a greater role in our country’s national aspirational goals both on the economic, and social dimension of things .Or is this one of those gimmicks projects that a desperate president’attempt to woe the womens vote, and is trying to hold on to power either by hook or crook . Sierra leonean Women make up majority of the country’s population. A voting bloc that you can’t afford to ignore in an election year .Bio’s track record on women’s right is dubious and full of hogwash .
The cases we’ve witnessed in the last few years under Bio’s watch can be called vendetta politics against high profile women politicians ,and civil servants whose only crime was to put country first before their families and personal ambitions in a country dominated by male politicians .Mayor Akin Swayer , Dr Slyvia Bylden , Mrs Lara peace Taylor and many others like them.”Sierra Leonean Women are at risk for sexul and gender based violence , sexual assult of adults and minors , matiral rapes , School -related sexual abuse, and harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation ” And when it comes to looking after the family and carrying out almost all the domestic work ,majority of the care and burden in our country fall on the shoulders of our women and girls .In the real world, not Bio’s world , Sierra Leonean women that makes up the majority of the country’a population are less likely to be employed in the formal sector , and if they are employed , they earn lower wages and are less likely to influence government policy and experience higher level of violence , because of misogyny and men’s diabolical behaviors towards women in general. Some Sierra leonean men idea of what it means to be a woman in a male dominated society can be equated to the Taliban mentality in Afghanistan .
Women are seen but not to be heard .Sierra leonean women deserves to have their own voices .And make decision based on their interest and not made by men .When you think they were given the right to vote in the early 1930s , somethings never change they stay the same. This GEWE Act 2022 bill is an other microwaved reheated right given to women, so they better make use of it before it is frozen in the anals of our history .And today ,they are expected to be thankful to the champion of women’s right Papa Bio.The main purpose of having the right to vote is to vote for someone who represents things that matters in your life .I hope the 30% percent women’s representation in the Wells of the Sierra Leone Parliamentary chamber is just the beginning .We should have a fifty /fifty percentage representation of both sexes in Parliament.
When it comes to implementing African Union protocol on Women’a Rights, Rwanda is miles ahead than any other African country What we want to see in Sierra Leone every Presidential canidates should have his running mate slot allocated to the women of Sierra Leone. Bio likes to talk the talk to satisfy our international partners, but he never walk the walk .The proof of the pudding is in the eating .We all remember when Bio repeal the 1965 libel and sedition Act and the death Penalty .More people that are outspoken against his government have either been killed or fled the country..As for the abolition of the death penalty , all that has done is to take aware that power from our learned judges and handed it over to our trigger happy Sierra Leone police .They have become the judges , the jury and the executioners of those that stand up to Bio and his cronies .Let’s hope this bill live up to expectation but I’m not holding my breath.