At two-day symposium of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentary Association (ECOFEPA) on Proportional Representation of Women in Politics, Sierra Leonean government receives praise for passage of Gender Empowerment Bill
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Female Parliamentary Association (ECOFEPA) has commended the Sierra Leonean government for putting women on the map of history by passing the Gender Empowerment Bill on 30 Per Cent (30%) Affirmative Action.
President of ECOFEPA, Woraye Sarr, further charged member-states of ECOWAS to take a queue from what Sierra Leone has done by allowing women to be part of governance at all strata. These formed part of her remarks when members of the association paid a courtesy visit to the Sierra Leone Vice President, Dr Mohammed Juldeh Jaloh.
The ECOFEPA is currently in Freetown, Sierra Leone, for a two-day symposium which opened on Friday at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Academy. The symposium is aimed at sensitising the public on proportional representation of women in politics, titled: “Scaling up Political Partnership between Men and Women.” It also intends to unleash the potential of women and youth in politics and entrepreneurship.
Adding that the organisation is committed to empowering women and youths by providing opportunities for their diverse participation in politics, she added that the political representation of women in the region compared to developed countries is relatively low as youths and women participation falls short of expectations.
According to her, “it is hoped this symposium would deepen the understanding of the critical role of women and youths in politics. I say a hearty congratulations to all the Sierra Leonean Women for this great achievement, most especially to Her Excellency, Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the Leadership of the National Assembly and its members, He4She Champions and everyone who provided technical support towards making the Act a resounding success. I must say that history will not forget your labour of love, and we are indeed proud of you.
Nevertheless, some countries in ECOWAS have made progress in the enactment of the laws and policies for institutions to promote and protect women’s rights, yet there is still a huge deficit when it comes to effective implementation of the Act. I’d like to reiterate that gender machinery remains among the weakest public institutions, especially at a time when they are needed the most to push the women and youths agenda forward,” she noted.
In her remarks, the ECOFEPA Caucus Leader, Hon. Veronica Kadia Sesay, a Parliamentarian from Sierra Leone, also thanked the executive for the recognition given to women in the country.
“Despite the recognition of the important role of women and youths in national development, these groups continue to be marginalised in our society, hence the need for practical actions to change the status quo.
It is even hoped that we [Sierra Leone] will exceed the Rwanda percentage, considering the enthusiasm of the sitting President, Julius Maada Bio that he has for gender issues. The accomplishment of a 30 per cent quota reserved for women in Government and all levels of decision-making guarantees that women are going to be represented equally,” she reiterated.
In his response, the Vice President, Dr Jaloh, thanked the women’s group for finding it worthy to bring the sensitisation campaign for scaling women in politics to Sierra Leone. This is as he emphasised the need for women’s representation and participation in governance at all levels to promote a better and more peaceful society.
Meanwhile, Jaloh said the government was willing to do more besides just assenting to the Gender Empowerment Bill and promised to follow up with a rigorous implementation of clauses in the law.
“We have also moved in the Gender Empowerment Bill what is called ‘Financial Inclusion’ because we realised that most women who do business in this country do not have credit facilities, so we created that access for women to have credits. We are able to keep the promise, and we are also able to support women in Sierra Leone so that they can play a viable role.
We are trying to ensure that women’s representation is not only in the parliament but an ecosystem that will put women where they are supposed to be. When you build an ecosystem, it includes finance, representation, health and other aspects as well. The President is going to set up a national committee so as to ensure everything that is being passed in the gender law is followed through rigorously.
When we resumed office a few years ago, we decided to focus on women, and we decided to focus on health policies and child care. So in every region we decided to put an ambulance to move pregnant women to the nearest health centers to reduce infant and maternal deaths. Another thing we did was to build blood banks in most of these health centers especially in the event that they need blood during delivery. We also put policies in place to increase women’s nutrition especially those that are pregnant.”