Addressing the Gender Gap in Sierra Leonean Politics Author: Bola Sarah Bangura, SSS 3 Science, Modern High School

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Sierra Leone’s political sphere is widely dominated by men, who constitute the decision making process. Despite their engagement in the peace process, and efforts to increase women’s participation in public life, women in Sierra Leone still face difficulties today in entering parliamentary politics. Given the end of the country’s brutal civil war in 2002, our nation has had four national and four local elections; despite some positive changes, especially at the local level, women continue to be underrepresented in political institutions. Women have a notable history of involvement in pre-independence politics. Sadly, the country’s inconsistent political history of coups and counter-coups and one-party oppression in the post-independence era, put an end to their political politicking.

In our nation, how many women are in the workforce, how well paid are they, how elevated are they, how many girls and women access education, from primary level to tertiary? When decisions are made, how many women are at the table? Education is a key area of concern; although we aregetting up to speed in attaining gender equality in education;thanks to the initiative of the present government in its drive of free education, thereare still a handful of girls who are dropouts than boys.Families bank on girls’ labour for domestic chores, carrying water, and babysitting, leaves little amount of time for schooling. Women themselves serve as one of the great opposition in attaining leadership roles, they hardly support each other. A clear example can be cited from the 2018 elections where Mrs. Claudius Cole of Unity party contested in the race for the presidency, and scored less than five percent.

Amidst all this, there is a glimmer of hope for women to take centre stage in leadership and political arenas, as the expiration of the war presented a political flash loaded with prospects for change and alteration of existing political illustration. Women’s campaign groups persistent and resolute strides to increase theirinvolvement in politics and creating a gender stability in all levels of public life;a predominantlynotable impact has come from the 50:50 Group, a non-partisan women’s campaigning organization formed in 2000, have triumphed successfully. These organizations are putting up a fight against all forms of hindrance to their political involvement via nationwide engagement. But is it enough? Is there a cause to sketch out strategies specifically targeting to improve women’s political politicking? Or is it adequate for expanding theirleadership pedigree?

However, for us as women and a s a nation political participation and representation, certain issues must be considered:

Empowering women, either by cash transfer programmes given only to them, scholarships, parliamentary/government quotas directed at enhancing female participation, or statutesproposed to protect women’s rights, does alter the decision making in families and the country as a whole, compared to income or assets in the hands of men.

Rule manufacturers need to be aware or must be informed that the electoral system approved by a country plays just as critical a role in enhancing representation as favourable action methods.

Money is crucial for winning elections. A special electoral financing system should be developed and adopted to assist female candidates and they should have support in acquiringthe skills, potentials and strategies to conducting campaigns.

Activist groups in support of women’s empowerment need persistent support to enable them to provide vital training, legislative support and activismfor female political aspirants.

Women requiresustainable support once they get into parliament, so training offered by NGOs and aid organizations needs to go further than campaign training. In order to be effective, women need to learn how best they can use their government position and how to engage in public spaces to promote change.

Moreover, government needs to support women’s organizations and civil society organizations’ efforts in strengthening the accountability of elected women representatives to women as a constituency.

Finally, women must be supportive of each other when it comes to taking leadership front rows, not to serve as a discriminating factor as seen over the years.

If all of these are in place, Sierra Leone will be in the right direction of boasting of a greater representation and participation of its women in bridging gender gap, and a safe and encouraging environ for us to be in leadership positions. As one researcher says,”Equity between men and women is only likely to be achieved by continuing policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, possibly for a very long time.”

About Bola Sarah Sahidatu Bangura

18 years Bola Sarah Sahidatu Bangura is a SSS 3 Science Pupil at the Modern High Elementary School in Sierra Leone. She likes reading and dancing and passionate about women leadership, particularly in STEM – She aspired to become a Mechanical Engineer.