By Millicent Senava Mannah
The Social Enterprise Development (SEND Sierra Leone) in collaboration with Trocaire and with support from Irish Aid, has on Thursday 23rd June 2022 launched a training manual at the Radisson Blu Conference Hall for women who intend to aspire for elective positions across the country vis-à-vis the 2023 General Elections in order to ensure that more women are provided with the wherewithal or are availed the opportunity to participate in governance.
Participants were drawn from various sectors including female Parliamentarians and their male counterparts especially those supporting the course of women in Parliament especially those yearning for the enactment of the Gender and Women Empowerment Bill that has been tabled in Parliament.
Madam Lucy C.F Gondor, who is Board Chairperson of SEND, in her remarks, pointed out that equality between men and women can only be actualized if women are included in governances structures, adding that the importance of involving women in governance is not only key but crucial in any country’s development as only women can explain how they feel and react to issues objectively.
She suggested that establishing women networks in various districts will break the barrier of men considering themselves to be the best in governance positions, disclosing very soon SEND will expand its work to Kambia, Port Loko, and Pujehun districts as the women network build bond among various groups.
“This capacity training will help more women to participate in the 2023 general elections. More women will be capacitated and promoted,” she assured.
The SEND Country Director, Joseph Ayamga, maintained that if opportunities are given to women they will do exceptionally well, disclosing that women are being disadvantaged in politics despite being in the majority.
“Women are subjected to substandard roles in all political parties,” he said, disclosing that there are women out there who are interested in vying for elective positions which, according to him, is why Trocaire and SEND Sierra Leone thought it fit to come up with the training as well as the manual.
According to him, Kailahun district is the only district with 40 percent women representation in Parliament which they intend to replicate in all districts in 2023, as a way of ensuring more women in governances and leadership positions adding that SEND Sierra Leone and Trocaire will commence training for Civil Society on the Manual within the shortest possible time to ensure proper usage and interpretation, adding how there must be respect for the decision of men and women without any interference.
Representing the Parliamentary Female Caucus, Honourable Rebecca Yei Kamara, maintained they need action now as women and not later.
She informed the gathering that they are facing some serious challenges in convincing some male MPs to see a reason to accept and support the enactment of the GEWE Bill which most of them see as a threat, but called on the public to join them in prayers as the Bill if enacted will not only benefit those in Parliament but also other women.
Hon Saa Emerson Lamina appreciated SEND for coming up with the manual saying such will help the women in their struggles towards more women empowerment in governance, assuring that the Bill will soon become a thing of the past after doing the necessary things.
Officially launching the Manual, the Irish Ambassador, Claire Buckley, maintained the timing is useful as the manual is a product of collaboration among partners, stating that Ireland strongly supports women’s rights to equal participation because they recognize their role in peace-building and governance.
“We believe that a full and robust democracy depends on the equal participation of all including women, youth, and people with disabilities. And so we will continue to collaborate with like-minded partners such as SEND Sierra Leone to strengthen the capacity, the voices, and economic potentials of women and to create spaces for them to participate in politics, be part of social cohesion, and seek accountability and inclusive decision making at all levels here in Sierra Leone,” she assured
She explained that they are doing such because they believe with more women in political party Executives, more women inside and outside parties running for elections, and more women in local councils will greatly contribute to nation-building.
The Irish Ambassador maintained that positive steps had been taken towards ensuring women empowerment, citing the GEWE Bill and the Public Elections Act that are before Parliament at the moment for discussion and possible enactment.
“But of course, there are big obstacles and gender inequality and discrimination here in Sierra Leone is the cause of social inclusion. It’s one of the reasons why Sierra Leone’s performance on the global gender inequality index remains so low,” she said, disclosing that lessons have taught them that long-term sustained capacity building, mentoring, coaching, and networking are essential to get women elected at local and national levels and to deliver on shared commitments to transformational political inclusive processes.