Memunatu Koroma, the deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has explained the national policy on the gender mainstreaming of Sierra Leone at the 38th Session of the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Addressing the CEDAW gathering in New York recently, she emphasized that “the Policy on Gender Mainstreaming forms an integral part of the national development process and reinforce the overall development objectives in the country.”
She told the assembly that, “it emphasizes government’s commitment to gender responsive development,” while the policy compliments all sectoral policies and programmes and defines structures and key target areas for ensuring that gender concerns are routinely addressed in all planning activities as well as in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programme activities.
The minister emphasized that the cross-cutting nature of gender, which seek to integrate it into development efforts at the national, sectoral, district and chiefdom levels, and spoke about how the policy provided a legal framework and mandate for every stakeholder to address gender imbalances within their respective sectors.
The policy, she told the gathering that government shall explore the possibilities of harmonizing our laws to ensure that the principles of equity, good conscience, fair play and justice prevail, that the welfare of women and children is maintained and the economic, social and cultural development proceeds at a pace commensurate with national goals and aspirations among others.
Over the years, she further told her audience, efforts put in place in promoting gender equality by various line ministries had paid off and these could be seen in the level of participation of women in the public sector; greater gender parity in education, especially at the primary school level, increased number of women in decision making positions and increasing opportunities for economic empowerment.
Speaking on eliminating gender disparity in education, the minister stated that the Government of Sierra Leone considered education as everybody’s right and this consideration has so far guided its education policies which were being implemented systematically and diligently.
The minister went on that “every citizen of Sierra Leone shall have the right to basic education which accordingly shall be compulsory,” while the girl child education initiative in Sierra Leone had been inspired by the Sierra Leone Government’s commitment and concern for the improvement and well-being of Sierra Leonean women.
Government’s intervention started in 1999 at the primary level by the payment of fees for pupils in classes 1-3 in the year 2000; free schooling was extended to classes 4-6 which led to rapid rise in enrolment.
On the challenges ahead she emphasized that, “the Government is faced with serious challenges in implementing the provisions of the convention, some of which include but not limited to the following, as Sierra Leone still remains a male-dominated society”.
The minister lamented further that, “my ministry receives less than one percent (1%) of the national budget for the fiscal year which is grossly inadequate,” and “thus it depends largely on donor support”.