With funding from Irish Aid, Trócaire and partners (Campaign for Good Governance, Association for the Wellbeing of Rural Communities and Development, Women’s Forum for Human Rights and Democracy, Social Enterprise Development, Network Movement for Justice and Development) have been campaigning for the passing of the GEWE Act for the past four years and have worked closely with members of parliament to draft the law.
The organisations also trained women to become empowered and know their political rights and developed an election manifesto to support women who are running for election.
“The GEWE Act will succeed in getting more women into politics because it is law. It is in black and white that 30 percent of all seats should go to women,” Jengo says.
“We are seeing women who are teachers and nurses coming out in droves to help make their community better by focusing on roads, healthcare and poverty rates. The women of Sierra Leone are empowered. They are ready.”
Sudie Sellu, Trócaire’s Women’s Empowerment Officer in Sierra Leone says that while women are putting themselves forward for election, they may not be elected.
“The election will be based on proportional representation for the first time since 1996. The Act only makes it mandatory for political parties to nominate a female candidate, not to choose one. We need nominations that will end up winning.”
“Game-changing” to have more women at the table
Dumbuya hopes the GEWE Act will remove the barriers women face to enter politics in her district.
“When I became the first female councillor in my area, it was just me at the table with the men. The GEWE act will now state that seven of the 23 positions in my council will have to go to women. That is game changing for the women of Sierra Leone.”
Dumbuya says her district is very patriarchal and women are forbidden from attending many political spaces. She adds the training she received from Trócaire partner ABC helped her to respond to and overcome intimidation and abuses she received while working in politics.
“Our biggest barrier in politics is the men. The GEWE Act is about bringing the men and the women to the same space where they are equal and they make decisions together. When I was the only woman at the table, it was very hard to have a voice. I was marginalised and intimated by my male colleagues. With training from Trócaire and partner ABC, I know my political rights and have developed a thick skin to take on the men.”