By Foday Moriba Conteh
President, Julius Maada Bio, signed into law the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act (GEWE), in January 2023 which is a ground-breaking piece of legislation that reserves a significant 30 percent quota for women in governance positions. This move has garnered attention both domestically and internationally, positioning Sierra Leone as a trailblazer in advancing gender equality.
To delve into the intricacies and implications of this transformative Act, the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program at Harvard University, has on Friday 25th August, 2023 concluded a six-day intensive case study shedding light on the intricacies of the enactment process of the GEWE Act by the Government of Sierra Leone.
Throughout the in-depth study, the Senior Program and Research Coordinator at the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program, Harvard University, Benita Kayembe conducted interviews with key stakeholders which include the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, the Speaker, Parliament of Sierra Leone, Dr. Chernor Abass Bundu, the Head of Office- UN Women , Madam Setcheme Mongbo, Deputy Leader of Government Business II, Hon. Emerson Lamina who was the Opposition Leader for the Coalition for Change Party(C4C) in Parliament of Sierra Leone, the President of the Parliamentary Female Caucus, Hon. Nenneh Lebbie, Activist and Lawyer Nicky Spencer Coker and the pioneer of the Act, the former Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs now Minister of State, Office of the Vice President, Madam Manty Tarawalli who championed the development and enactment of the Act etc.
Speaking to this medium, the former Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs now Minister of State, Office of the Vice President, Manty Tarawalli, who during her tenure as Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs championed the enactment of the Act, shared her insights
during the study.
According to her, she was fortunate during her tenure as Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs to attend the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program which supports Government Ministers, with pivotal economic and human development related responsibilities, to exercise purposeful leadership and achieve transformative policy goals.
She maintained that due to her outstanding performance at her former office, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, especially on the enactment of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Act that the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program at Harvard University wrote to her and requested the opportunity to conduct a case study on the process that she employed in leading the enactment of a Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) Act.
The Minister pointed out that other countries have over the years failed to enact such legislation but said Sierra Leone now stands tall in that regard adding that such was made possible because of the presidential will, her dedication to the process and the collaboration she was able to develop and sustain throughout the entire process.
She commended the enactment of the GEWE Act by Parliament as a very important milestone in the empowerment of women in the country, adding that due the law, the country now has 41 Female Ordinary Members of Parliament, 10 Ministers and 11 Deputy Ministers under the second term of His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio.
Manty Tarawalli concluded by describing the Act as a pivotal step forward in promoting gender equality and women’s active participation in decision-making processes with a ground-breaking provision that reserves 30 percent of governance positions for women, furthering that the Act addresses historical gender imbalances that have persistently hindered women’s representation in various spheres of influence in the
On her part, the Senior Program and Research Coordinator at the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program, Benita Kayembe who conducted the case study revealed that the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program at Harvard University gives a number of serving Ministers of Finance, Economic Planning, Education, Health, and other Ministers with human development related responsibilities from Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America a unique opportunity to step back from their daily duties, reflect on and re-evaluate their priorities in an environment of constructive challenge and peer interaction, and map out their legacies in contributing to advancing human development and economic progress in their countries.
She maintained that the Forums practically focused and discussion-based are informed by case studies and the experiences of former and long-serving Ministers from around the world, adding that it in that spirit that she came to Sierra Leone to conduct a case study
on the enactment of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act (GEWE) by the Government of Sierra Leone. She revealed that Madam Manty Tarawalli is an alumnus of this program and during her time at the Program she identified the enactment of the GEWE Act as her legacy goal and now that she has met her goal, the program wants to study how she did it.
Benita Kayembe added that the Harvard Program case study seeks to explore and analyse how the then Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawalli and her stakeholders were able to negotiate a bill that challenges human perfection in society commencing from a policy, to a bill and then enactment into law. She said part of the study involved interviewing various stakeholders including the proponents and the opponents in the country.
The Senior Program and Research Coordinator said that from her finding’s the former Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawalli, played a pivotal role in the process of enactment of the Act, adding that Sierra Leone becomes one of the few countries to have a law that gives women 30 percent quota in governance of which she applauded the Government of Sierra Leone.
She further lauded the former Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawalli for championing the Law and for her tenacity in sustaining the enactment process. She also maintained that the unwavering leadership demonstrated by the President was a big contribution towards the enactment of the law.
She concluded by stating that in September this year the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program at Harvard University will be holding its usual forum which will be attended by selected serving Ministers from Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, adding that the case study on the enactment of the Sierra Leone’s GEWE Act will be shared with them in order to learn from it.