Despite the fact that Sierra Leone is a signatory to the United Nations resolution 1325 which seeks to promote and protect women in times of war and in peace yet “the strides made are not good enough.” These were the remarks of Hon. Dr Bernadette Lahai as Pathways of Women’s Empowerment and Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) yesterday launched a research titled “Monitoring Sierra Leone’s Implementation of UN Resolution 1325″.
Women participation in governance is abysmal notwithstanding the role women played ending the country’s civil war and the elections that followed. “However only 10% of the current cabinet being female while of the 124 lawmakers only a little over 13% are women,” according to Pathway of Women’s Empowerment.
Ghanaian Professor Takyiwaa Manuh explained that Pathway of Women’s Empowerment Research Project Consortium (WERPC) is an international research and communications network linking academics, activists and practitioners to find out what works to enhance women’s empowerment.
She explained that the RPC brings together researchers from a diversity of places- Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and the UK- to critically examine long-held assumptions about women, power and social change.
Prof. Manuh said RPC uses approach that is framed by the living experiences that fit with contexts in which they are voiced. In this way, it seeks to reframe empowerment in ways that restores its power as a concept.
She revealed that the project has three areas of enquiry and four research themes i.e. conceptions of women’s empowerment, empowering work, building constituencies for equality and justice and changing narratives of sexuality.
Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Deputy Minister Jeneh Kandeh highlighted government’s progress with regards to the implementation of the UN resolution 1325.
According to her “in the last couple of months, some amount of progress have been made in terms of baseline surveys on knowledge of the resolution and setting the agenda for the development of a National Action Plan.”
She revealed that the ministry is closely working with WANEP-SL and MARWOPNET-SL to raise the level of awareness and develop a framework for the implementation of the resolution.
“I am of the strong view that if the national plan is developed and implementation commences, it will provide a good platform for monitoring the progress,” she accentuated.
The deputy minister said a national task force has been established comprising of parliamentarians, line ministries and civil society members.
“Regional consultations were held in February 2009 in Freetown, Makeni, Bo and Kailahun respectively to enhance stakeholders input to the development of the National Action Plan,” she explained.
The deputy minister said the ministry is looking to receiving the report from the regional consultation and also working with WIPSEN- Africa based in Accra, Ghana.
Hon. Dr Bernadette Lahai on the other hand was very blunt in bringing out the realities of government’s implementation progress; noting that though some strides have been made in the area of protecting and respecting women’s right and protection from gender based violence, “the violence against and the intimidation of women candidates in the 2008 local government election and the recent political violence between the APC and SLPP in which women were reportedly raped, with their perpetrators still walking in the streets freely, shows that Sierra Leone has a long way to go in ending impunity and prosecuting those responsible for gender-based violence.”
Explaining about existing initiatives in Sierra Leone so far, Programme Coordinator WANMAR explained that WANMAR has deepening awareness and understanding for the resolution and also made progress in the establishment of the Government Civil Society task force as part of the mechanism. She also revealed that regional consultations are ongoing to widen the platform for dialogue and collecting the relevant information and data for crafting the National Action Plan on 1325 in Sierra Leone.”
CGG head of programs Marcella Macauley noted that the most important efforts should be made to unearth issues peculiar to women “this is where the issue of research is absolutely vital,” she said.