His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has launched the country’s first Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy 2020, saying that Sierra Leone will be happy if women, who form a major of its population, are happy.
“We are here this morning to set ourselves new challenges that will touch and transform the lives of 52% of our population. It will place them where they belong: at the centre of our nation’s development process with all due rights, access, opportunities, and resources. We are not about to witness history. Together, we are making history.
“This is a pivotal year for gender equality and women’s empowerment – It is 25 years since we adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; 20 years after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace, and Security); 10 years since the establishment of UN Women; and, 5 years since the world set itself a set of targets in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he noted.
President Bio further stated that following a declaration of a national emergency on rape, his government had also passed the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2019 to make it tougher on the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence. He announced that he had created the Sexual Offences Model Court to fast-track judicial processes for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV, cases, the creation of the One-Stop Centres for SGBV in most parts of the country and also engaged citizens on the implementation of the Male Involvement Strategy for the Prevention of SGBV.
“My wife, the First Lady, has tirelessly engaged chiefs, community leaders, citizens, and development partners. Indeed, we can change outcomes for millions of young girls by changing social norms and perspectives on child marriage, menstruation, and intensifying our policy of radical inclusion that guarantees access to all in education and opportunity,” President Bio said.
The President maintained that his government was putting strategies in place for women and financial inclusion and ensuring access to credit, savings and income streams, business opportunities and social safety nets to every district in the country. He noted that his government was investing heavily in healthcare infrastructure, diagnostic facilities, training and equipment for healthcare workers, ambulances and more.
Ambassador of Ireland to Sierra Leone, Lesley Ní Bhriain, commended the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio for working hard to make sure that women and girls lived in a free and safe ecosystem.
She also stated that she was really delighted to join the government of Sierra Leone in the launch of the first Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy 2020, noting that such move was at the heart of her embassy in Sierra Leone and that of the government of Ireland, in making sure that there was an increase in women’s participation in politics and decision making.
Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manti Tarawally, said the Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy was aimed at mainstreaming gender into all development and the political process in Sierra Leone and to ensure livelihood and social protection for women, men, boys and girls for sustainable peace and economic growth.
“The Policy analyses the current situation of women in Sierra Leone from a gender perspective. It further provides broad and specific objective to ensure the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment; and to articulate the strategic and institutional framework to ensure effective implementation,” she noted.
Country Representative of UN Women, Dr Mary Okumu, said the launch of the policy was an incredible achievement, adding that it would promote the consolidation of peace and equal participation of women and girls.
Dr Okumu said there had been a number of achievements in Sierra Leone since 2018, describing the launch of the policy as a gift to Sierra Leone that would increase the participation of women and girls, not only in politics but also in every sphere of development in the country.
“The United Nation’s Women commend the government of Sierra Leone for this landmark. We also commend the government for providing a stand-alone ministry of gender for the projection of women and girls,” she concluded.