With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for International Affairs has held a one day strategic planning forum to capacitate female councilors.
Speaking at the Saint Anthony’s Parish Hall, Brookfields, the NDI Country Director Honorine Muyoyeta said that, with funding from USAID, the NDI has been able to develop a multi-faceted program to enhance the ability of women who contested the past local council elections and also to build the capacity of those elected to represent their constituents and to come up with recommendations for election law reforms in the post-election period.
She added that, one important goal of the program is to expand the network of Civil Society Organizations, media and party activists in support of women’s increased political participation.
The Country Director pointed out that, today, while women represent 49% of registered voters in Sierra Leone, they (women) constitute only 13 % of local councilors (60 of 473 councilors).
She stressed that not only do women have intrinsic rights to be involved in elections as voters, candidates, and elected representatives, but that it has also proved that when women are involved in politics, the concerns and needs of the people are fully addressed.
She furthered that her institution has undertaken many programs with other partners to enhance the capacity of women in Sierra Leone.
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Musu Kandeh said that, her Ministry has taught it fit to partner with other organizations to train women for strategic positions in governance.
She emphasized the need for women to lobby around the different political parties to be gender friendly, adding that women constitute an integral part of the development of this country.
The Minister reiterated government’s commitment to address the issue of women participation in governance at different levels.
Benjamin John, from the United Nations (UN) said that gender issues are dear to their hearts and that they strongly believe in gender equality.
He added that, women should mobilize themselves in groups as voting blocks to help promote themselves.
USAID Governance Specialist, Abdulai Jalloh said that, the issues of women are human right issues.
Amy Smythe, in her presentation, gave an overview of the findings from NDI’s Evaluation Program where she called on women to organize themselves into formidable groups to close the gap between them and their male counterparts.
Presentation was also made by Miatta French, Outreach Officer, National Electoral Commission (NEC).