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Sierra Leone moves to bring more women into politics with new gender quotas in parliament

Sierra Leone has moved to bring more women into politics with a new gender equality bill which would ensure that 30 percent of parliamentary seats and cabinet positions are held by women.

Sierra Leone's Minister for Gender Manty Tarawalli (centre) with campaigners after the GEWE Bill was passed. Photo: Trócaire Sierra Leone's Minister for Gender Manty Tarawalli (centre) with campaigners after the GEWE Bill was passed. Photo: Trócaire

Currently in Sierra Leone, with a population of almost eight million people, just 19 percent of local politicians are women, and only 13 percent at national level.

The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill, which was passed in parliament on November 15, also aims to improve women’s access to finance, more positions in employment, and to link government spending to improving gender equality.

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 working for the past three years to draft and advance the bill in parliament.

The Bill is monumental for the women of Sierra Leone who are routinely discriminated against and at risk of gender-based violence. Sierra Leone is ranked 182nd out of 189 countries on the UN’s 2020 Gender Development Index.

Sudie Sellu, Trócaire’s Programme Officer for Women’s Empowerment in Sierra Leone, said:

“The GEWE Bill is a great win and a big leap in the advancement of women in governance and leadership in Sierra Leone. Trócaire and our partners have been campaigning tirelessly to draft and ensure the enactment of this Bill and we will continue to advocate until the Bill gives the women of Sierra Leone what they deserve. One thing is sure, the lives of Sierra Leonean women and girls can only get better from now on,” Ms Sellu said.

Sallay Adams, President of Trócaire partner Women’s Forum Sierra Leone, said that the Bill will “change the dynamics of the empowerment of our women and girls”.

“It will create more inclusion for gender mainstreaming, political participation and access to finance. This is what we the women of Sierra Leone has been yearning to have over the past years,” Ms Adams added.

Trócaire partner, Marcella Samba-Sesay, Executive Director of Campaign for Good Governance said the Bill is a “dawn of a new era for the women of Sierra Leone.”

“It is historic, revolutionary and a fulfilment of a major peacebuilding recommendation in my country,” Ms Samba-Sesay said.

Margaret M Fofanah, Organising Secretary of WARDWiGN, who campaigned alongside Trócaire said that many sleepless nights went into the making of the Bill.

“The battle may have been won; however, the job is just getting started for women to vie for positions in government. The Bill will enable us to push further and ensure young women are brought on board. If the network continues with this strength, energy and mindset, I believe we will be able to change the narratives,” Ms Fofanah said.

Earlier this year, Sierra Leone’s parliament passed two new laws that will help boost the rights of rural landowners and women against land grabs by big mining and agribusiness firms.

The Customary Land Rights Act and the Land Commission Act, both enacted in August, empower local landowners to negotiate the value of their land. Companies operating in Sierra Leone will have to obtain the consent of local communities before starting mining, industrial or farming activities. Local land owners will also be able to veto any projects and the Sierra Leone government will have to help pay for any legal fees that the local communities incur in negotiations.

Read More: Sierra Leone passes ‘globally unprecedented’ laws to boost landowners’ rights

General elections are scheduled to be held in Sierra Leone in June 2023, where the Parliament and President will be elected.

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