“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.
“It was very challenging,” Dumbuya says. “There are many barriers for women such as deeply embedded gender norms, lack of funding and an exclusion from political spaces.”
“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.”
Menunata Nallo (51), who is aspiring to be one of those seven women who will be legally entitled to taking up a position on the Kambia District council, says she hopes the GEWE bill will force men in her party (SLPP) to cease intimidation tactics.
“I was told by male colleagues that I shouldn’t speak at rallies because I am a woman and so I don’t have the knowledge. When I posted my election posters, men in my party tore them down and created violence when I tried to canvass. It is changing now with the GEWE Act, I am now being invited to speak at rallies,” Nallo says.
Kamara Hajaratu (40) a councillor and teacher in the Port Loko district says she faced a lot of sexual harassment from her male colleagues.
“It’s a big problem,” Hajaratu says. “Male colleagues will say that I’m bluffing, I’m all talk. They’ll say I must do something for them in return for getting ahead in politics.”
“Male councillors ask you to make love to them. They will constantly call you and ask you how you are doing. It’s too much attention, it’s distracting and puts you under a lot of pressure. It’s not easy.”