By Foday Moriba Conteh
His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, delivered a keynote address on the momentous occasion of the official launch of the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians (NeWMaP) during an event that took place on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown.
The distinguished gathering included the Honourable Vice President, the Honourable Speaker of Parliament, the First Lady, Ministers of Government, Members of the Diplomatic Community, Members of Parliament, and representatives of the Fourth Estate.
President Bio commenced his address by expressing great pleasure in launching NeWMaP at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel, named after Mammy Yoko, the ruler of the vast Kpa Mende Confederacy and a leader known for building alliances.
The primary objective of NeWMaP is to build strong alliances among female Government-appointed Ministers and elected Parliamentarians, promoting the representation of women and their full and equal participation in political and parliamentary leadership.
President Bio highlighted the significance of the occasion, marking a significant step forward for Sierra Leone and symbolizing a collective commitment to fostering gender equality, empowering women, and ensuring their active participation in shaping the future of the nation.
Emphasizing the essential role of women in political and public life, President Bio acknowledged the under-representation of women at all levels of decision-making. Despite progress, achieving gender parity in political life remains a challenge.
President Bio asserted that the women of Sierra Leone are a political force that can no longer be ignored. For too long, women in the country have been marginalized and under-represented in positions of power and decision-making. Their voices have been silenced, their contributions overlooked, and their potential untapped.
The President identified the re-establishment of NeWMaP as a powerful commitment to amplifying the voices of women, harnessing their expertise, and ensuring their rightful place in the corridors of power. He thanked the pioneers of NeWMaP for promoting greater cooperation among women public servants and working together to improve the lives and livelihoods of women and girls in the country.
President Bio highlighted the Government’s commitment to gender equality, citing the landmark Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Bill that promotes gender parity and the social and economic empowerment of women in Sierra Leone. The President confirmed adherence to the minimum 30% representation of women in elective and appointive positions as stipulated in the GEWE Bill during the last election cycle.
He emphasized that his Government’s approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment has been holistic, citing several legislations such as the Public Elections Act 2022, Land Commission Act 2022, Customary Land Rights Act 2022, Political Parties Regulations Commissions Act 2022, and the Mines and Mineral Development Act 2022.
As the Principal He-For-She Champion in Sierra Leone, President Bio expressed a strong commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, inspired by justice and fidelity to fundamental human rights. He highlighted his historic choice of a female running mate in 2012, emphasizing that gender equality is a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
President Bio expressed confidence that NeWMaP will play a pivotal role in advancing the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone. He urged members to commit themselves to concrete actions that will bring about positive change and help reshape the landscape of political governance in the country.
In concluding his address, President Bio charged NeWMaP to bring on board male allies in both Cabinet and Parliament to support their work. On November 21, 2023, President Bio officially launched the resuscitation of the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians (NeWMaP) in Sierra Leone, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to creating an environment where women can thrive, lead, and contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic and political fabric of the nation.