The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) held a debriefing at Youyi Building in Freetown yesterday, announcing the ratification of recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Memunatu Koroma, the deputy minister, who recently participated in the CEDAW conference in New York, said that the government will explore ways to domesticate the recommendations which include such concerns as creating greater equality between men and women and the prohibition of female genital mutilation (FGM).
She pointed out that some other recommendations from the committee like domestic violence, and ensuring that all discriminatory legislation is amended and repealed have already been done in the passing of the three gender bills in June.
Koroma was frank about her ministry’s capacity.
(We) receive less than one percent of the national budget,” she said further noting that they were heavily dependent on donor support.
“The (CEDAW) report presented a real picture of women in Sierra Leone.”
On the issue of FGM, which remains highly controversial in Sierra Leone, the ministry said that prohibition of the practice was excluded from the recently enacted Child Rights Bill due to the lack of a clear definition of what constituted a ‘harmful traditional practice.’ A later amendment is possible.
The ministry plans to establish a legal age of consent for the practice and to sensitize communities to the adverse side effects it causes. Currently FGM is legal in Sierra Leone.
Koroma vowed that her ministry would continue to work on the issue, even if another political party gains power in the upcoming election.
“It’s a national issue, not a political issue,” she said. “I will be here as a Sierra Leonean.”
By Mike Carter