More female parliamentarians needed in Sierra Leone
Women’s groups in Sierra Leone are keen for women to achieve 30% representation in the forthcoming November general elections.
They are putting pressure on President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government to fulfill their promises to boost women’s involvement in decision-making processes.
Barbara Bangura, coordinator of Sierra Leone’s Grassroots Gender Equality Movement wants the government to commit to bring a draft gender quality bill into law before the elections.
The bill was drawn up after Women’s Day celebrations in 2011 and stipulates that political parties must have a minimum of 30% of parliamentary female candidates but it has not yet been passed.
Women’s rights campaigners are worried that male parliamentarians will not want to push it through as they fear losing their own seats to women.
According to Melrose Kargbo, head of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in Sierra Leone, the men say that the policy ‘does not allow people to freely choose who they want to represent them and infringes on people’s basic human rights.’
Women’s rights campaigners disagree and argue that special measures must be taken in countries such as Sierra Leone, where there are only 17 women out of 124 members of Parliament.
The National Commission for Democracy (NCD) has also launched a nation-wide call for women to participate more actively in politics.
Chair of the Commission, Dr Abubakar Kargbo, believes that increased participation of women in politics will ‘help promote gender equality’.
In order for women to fight against violence and become more empowered, he says they must participate in politics and become decision-makers. But for men and women to work together to promote gender equity and politics, he says the government needs to introduce the 30% quota.
Rosaline Oya-Sankoh, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, said that her ministry is working extremely hard to make sure that women are included in the decision-making process of the government.
She is also a firm believer in the quota system and argues that it will ‘push the issue of gender forward.’
And, as Bangura rightly argues: ‘If we really want to practice true democracy, the women have to be involved… we have been left out for too long.’