One woman’s story might help explain this further and put it in a wider context of how to achieve transformative change.
Aminata Kamara is Deputy leader of Konta Bana village, Marampa chiefdom in Port Loko District, north western Sierra Leone. Aminata became the first woman ever to get elected to this influential role on 10th February 2020.
Aminata, a married mother of four, is one of 25 women who form a women’s farmer group in Konta Bana known as Tamareneh Women Farmer’s Association. Aminata was selected as the group’s candidate for Deputy Village Headman ahead of the last election. Achieving gender equality in Sierra Leone has always been challenging, and Aminata’s election campaign did not go without backlash from the men she was up against.
In the run-up to the elections, male candidates launched a public smear campaign against her to sabotage her election hopes. They claimed her candidacy was illegal and made continual derogatory remarks against her because of her gender.
Despite these setbacks, Aminata and her supporters courageously carried on. On the campaign trail, Aminata and her supporters contested the negative perceptions of women in power, highlighting the struggles women face in day-to-day life. This enabled her to strengthen her campaign for more female voices in politics.
It was a hotly contested election, but Aminata came out on top, and was declared Konta Bana’s Deputy Leader. On winning, Aminata said, “I am very happy to have been elected Deputy Headwoman. This is the first time a woman has been appointed to such an important decision-making space in my community.” Aminata’s success represented a ground-breaking change for women in her native Sierra Leone. Overnight she became a role model for other women and girls with leadership aspirations.
What enabled her to get to that position?
Her first challenge would have been self-belief. Her group of women – Tamareneh Women Farmer’s Association – gave her their full support. She was elected by a landslide as the group’s candidate.
Her second challenge would have been the men in her own life and in the community. Amina and her peers were supported by Trócaire’s local partner, the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR). CDHR led training for Aminata and her peers, and supported them to engage their male counterparts to address issues they are facing, such as accessing and owning land, and women’s inclusion at decision-making levels. Aminata and her peers were helped to identify how to engage men effectively and to get their support for women in elections. Throughout the campaign, CDHR worked with Aminata to support and strengthen her campaign through targeted training in leadership, public speaking and how to mobilise her network for success