SIERRA LEONE'S EQUAL FUTURES PARTNERSHIP COMMITMENTS
Strengthening policy, legal and regulatory frameworks to advance women's participation in the formal economy
Sierra Leone commits to assessing and reforming specific laws, policies and regulations that restrict women's participation in the formal economy (including labor laws and tax policies). We will finalize this review by 2014, to be conducted with key stakeholders, and implement the recommendations within the next two years (2014 – 2016). The government of Sierra Leone has developed a draft National labour policy which needs to be finalized for effective implementation. The draft policy needs to be engendered to ensure that women’s participation in the formal economy is enhanced. The government of Sierra Leone would require support in the following areas:
- Technical and financial support to engender and finalize the National Policy on labour/employment
- Support the implementation of the recommendations in the National Labour Policy
- Provide technical and financial support to implement the decent work programme in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone commits to the review and reform, with key stakeholders, of land policy to ensure gender equality by 2015 (2013 -2015) and to implementing legal reforms regarding property rights with training and outreach programs to ensure their implementation. There is a current gender responsive land policy and the Agenda for Prosperity has further proposed to strengthen the existing land policy with emphasis on the gender equality. On the issue of property rights, the Devolution of Estates Act 2007 provides equal opportunity for women, men, boys and girls on the inheritance of personal properties upon the death of a spouse or parent. The government of Sierra Leone would require support to:
- Nationwide sensitization on the current draft land policy
- Roll-out the Devolution of Estates Act to ensure right holders benefit from the provisions enshrined in the legislation.
- Enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to finalize and implement a robust land policy that is gender responsive.
- Provide technical and financial resources to the overall implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity with focus managing natural resources and the gender equality and women’s empowerment pillars.
Advancing women's political participation in national, state and local legislative and decision-making bodies
Sierra Leone recognizes the role of women in the area of governance at all levels (national, regional and local level decision-making bodies). The government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs developed the National Policy on the Advancement of Women. The policy underscores the importance of women’s inclusion in decision making processes. The Local Government Act 2004 promulgates the 50-50 balance gender representation at the Ward Development Committee level. In fact some of the Wards have more than fifty percent representation of women as committee members. Currently, we have women serving as Mayors and Deputy Mayors in some of the Local Councils across the country. For instance the Makeni City Council is headed by a female Mayor and Deputized by a Female as well; the Council has 16 Councillors which comprises of eight females and eight males. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs developed and launched the National Gender Strategic Plan with six main priority areas:
- Regional and National Consultations on the minimum 30% quota representation for women in governance at all levels
- Drafting of the Bill on the minimum 30% quota for women in governance at all levels
- Seek Cabinet approval for the enactment of the Bill
- Pursue Parliamentary procedures for its enactment and ensure its full compliance and implementation by all political and public actors.
Addressing violence against women as a barrier to political and economic participation
Recognizing that gender based violence is a key barrier to women's political and economic participation, Sierra Leone has made some land mark legislations including the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2005; Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act 2009; Domestic Violence Act 2007; Devolution of Estates Act 2007 and the Sexual Offences Act 2012 to address issues of gender-based violence. Additionally, the Government through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has developed and launched the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence and the National Referral Protocol on Gender-Based Violence for full implementation. The government of Sierra Leone would require support to implement:
- Roll-out and popularization of the National Action Plan and the National Referral Protocol on GBV
- Development of a strategic roll-out plan for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act
- Development and dissemination of user friendly versions of the sexual offences act with pictorial messages
- Bi-weekly radio and television discussions on the gender justice laws including sexual offences act
- Community outreach programmes on the gender justice laws
Additional Information on Commitments
Below, please find further information from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs on the progress made by the government of the Republic of Sierra Leone to promote political and social equality for women in Sierra Leone.
In 2013-2014 the government of Sierra Leone developed the National Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP III 2013-2018) named the Agenda for Prosperity (A4P). The Agenda for Prosperity has eight pillars namely: Economic Diversification to Promote Inclusive Growth; Managing Natural Resources; Accelerating Human Development; International Competitiveness; Labour and Employment Strategy; Social Protection; Governance and Public Sector Reforms; and Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The two-prone approach used by the government - to mainstream gender issues in all pillars and a standalone pillar on gender equality and women’s empowerment – is not only a great achievement nationally but the strategy has been positively acknowledged internationally. As a result, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) formally requested Sierra Leone’s president, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, to champion gender equality and women’s empowerment issues in Africa. The president accepted the role and has since ensured that performance contracts signed between him and senior public/civil servants (ministers, heads of institutions including higher education and local governments) include progress made with respect to gender equality and women’s empowerment. This segment accounts for twenty percent of the overall performance reporting.
As part of the commitment to the Equal Futures Partnership, the government of Sierra Leone has, through the cabinet, approved the development of a comprehensive Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy including a draft bill advocating for the minimum thirty percent quota for women in government at all levels. Stakeholder consultations had been held with civil society organizations, local authorities, and opinion leaders in the regional headquarters to identify sectoral issues that could be factored into both documents. Additionally, the government worked with civil society partners in the development of the Agenda for Prosperity.
The government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has made progress with respect to the following programs:
- The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, in collaboration with partners, has rolled out and promoted the National Action Plan and the National Referral Protocol on GBV. It has completed the roll out of the National Referral Protocol across the country.
- The government has finalized the development and dissemination of a strategic plan for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act.
- Bi-weekly radio and television discussions on the ‘Gender Justice Laws’, including the Sexual Offences Act, are being delivered in major local dialects.
- Community outreach programs on the ‘Gender Justice Laws’, including the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, Devolution of Estates Act of 2007, Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act of 2009, and Sexual Offences Act of 2012, have been conducted.
The government of Sierra Leone remains committed to the full implementation of its Equal Futures Partnership commitments as they are aligned to the country’s five-year development strategy, the Agenda for Prosperity. His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma made sure that one of the flagship projects includes the establishment of the Women’s Empowerment Fund.
Sierra Leone is patriarchal society but the political will demonstrated by the president continues to have trickle-down effects across all levels of government in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The government is focusing on the strengthening of institutions involved in the advancement of women, first and foremost the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. Building the capacity of the ministry’s technical staff is crucial for the consolidation of gains made with respect to moving the gender equality agenda forward. A very strong gender responsive engagement and best practice sharing conference would be a perfect opportunity.
The commitment of the president ensures that Sierra Leone overcomes major hurdles in the implementation of women’s empowerment policies/strategies.
The government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of president Koroma has produced the greatest dividend in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women historically. The country is highly patriarchic in perceiving the significance of women’s rights primarily through entrenched traditional and cultural norms. Challenging these norms and trying to stimulate a cognitive shift requires deliberate efforts led by the chief decision-maker in the country. The president has shown his commitment to promoting women’s rights by appointing women to key positions including: cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, chief justice, national electoral commissioner, solicitor-general, commissioner-general of the national revenue authority, executive chairperson of the environmental agency, auditor-general, administrator and registrar-general, first female brigadier-general in the sub-region, state chief of protocol, ambassadors/high commissioners.
The government of Sierra Leone is a signatory to many international and regional instruments for the overall advancement of women in political, social, economic, and cultural areas. For example, Sierra Leone signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on September 21st and November 11th of 1988 respectively. Sierra Leone furthermore submitted its combined 2nd-5th Periodic Report to the UN Treaty Body on Human Rights in 2006 for consideration and defended it in May of 2007. The 6th Periodic Report was submitted in 2011 and was considered with concluding observations in February of 2014 in Geneva.
At the regional level, Sierra Leone is committed to the AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the AU Heads of State Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. The Maputo Protocol has been ratified by parliament in 2015.
To promote political participation and economic opportunity for women, the government has put the following mechanisms in place:
- There is a national machinery for the advancement of women: The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.
- In 2000, the Ministry on Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs developed and adopted the twin policies: National Policy on the Advancement of Women and the National Policy on Gender Mainstreaming.
- In 2007, landmark legislation was passed through the promulgation of the ‘Gender Justice Laws’, namely the Domestic Violence Act of 2007, Devolution of Estates Act of 2007, Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act of 2009, and Sexual Offences Act of 2012.
- In 2010, the government, through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affair developed the National Gender Strategic Plan which was officially launched by president Koroma for full implementation. In a related development, the government developed and adopted the Sierra Leone National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and 1820, also officially launched by the president.
- The government also passed a robust Sexual Offences Bill on 2012.
- The National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) was finalized and launched in 2012.
- The National Referral Protocol on GBV was finalized and officially launched.
- The ministry and its partners have commenced the rollout of the Sexual Offences Act as well as National Referral Protocol on GBV.
- The ministry successfully completed the implementation plan with respect to the Sexual Offences Act in 2015.
- In the first quarter of 2013, the ministry, in collaboration with UNWomen, organized a capacity building retreat for female members of parliament and some male allies.
- As part of the implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity, especially the eight pillar on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the ministry is working with development partners to create a comprehensive policy.
- The government adopted a two-prone approach to promote women’s rights by mainstreaming gender across all pillars of the national Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper III 2013-2018 (Agenda for Prosperity) as well as the stand-alone eight pillar. Performance contracts between the president and senior government officials also include twenty percent reporting on gender mainstreaming. The president recently launched the Women’s Empowerment Fund to promote female entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment.
- The government is currently reviewing the constitution, adopted in 1991, and hopes that a revitalized constitution will address fundamental citizens’ rights and welfare, especially women and girls.