The Human Right Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL), on Wednesday 27th November 2019 launches the Directorate of Gender and Children’s Affairs. The launching ceremony took place at their office headquarters on Tower Hill in Freetown. The launch coincides with the celebration of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, with a global theme: “Orange the world: Equality Stands against rape,” the global theme was localized as: “Orange Salone, we tinap tranga wan for tap rape” Before the establishment of the new Directorate, there HRCSL had only a unit which is responsible to overseeing children’s affairs, and has now graduated into a directorate. Chairperson, Human Right Commission of Sierra Leone, Patricia Narsu Ndanema, disclosed that the new Directorate shall be looking at the following: ensure that regional human right laws are factored into our daily work, raise public awareness on all laws concerning women, children and disable persons, provide strategic guideline to handle issues around women, extensive awareness raising, promote gender mainstreaming, factoring issues concerning old people and other vulnerable groups at community level, collaborate with other institutions to do a joint research on issues that are affecting women, and engaging government and all other partners to corporate with the issue of human right to play an integral role in tackling the issue of gender based issues. “The realization of human right should be a collective effort,” she added.
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She furthered that the Commission is committed to raise awareness and ensure effective collaboration with non-governmental organizations, to educate people in respect of their fundamental human right as provided for in Section 7 of the Act. She noted some of the complainants the Commission had received and how they responded to them. He explained: “the Commission recently rescued four girls who were going to be initiated into the bondo society in Kenema District, and the victims were immediately integrated into the school system. Also, the Gender team facilitates and ensures the return to school of two underage girls in Kenema, after they were denied the right to education in Kenema.” “We are now taking a robust approach in addressing issues of gender based violence,” she said. He went on to say that they played a role in the review of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012, and ensure that there is now a gender justice law. She maintained that in as much as they are intensifying their effort to end gender base violence, the challenge has been very huge, for some of the gender based violence which occurred in homes is being compromised by family members. Deputy Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mohamed Haji Kella, recalled that before now, human rights were being abused on a daily basis without being prosecuted, but now he said the trajectory has changed, for people now shout about gender based and other forms of violence. He called on the HRCSL to pay close attention to the prisons. “Sometimes the sentences are not commensurate to the offences committed, and that has to be looked into,” he said. He noted that the sexual offences are on the increase amidst strong laws. “Sierra Leone has one of the strongest laws on sexual offences, but the operational aspect of it remains a challenge,” he opined. President of the 50/50 group, Dr. Fatu Taqi, stressed the need for more education and awareness, especially in the rural areas where there is low level of education. He admonished the HRCSL to work closely with Births and Deaths to track down the ages of every child born in the country, so that they could have records. Police Inspector, Melvina Nekia Koroma, of the Gender Directorate Department, maintained that gender cannot succeed without human right, and human right abuses are criminal offences. She said, human right issues bring safety not only for individuals, but the nation as a whole. “Every nation that is strong for gender and children’s issues will definitely achieve its focus,” she opined. The Human Right Commission had been in existence since 2004 when it was established by an Act of Parliament, and charged with
By Sulaiman Karim Sesay
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