BLOG: 'It is Time For Us Women to Speak Up for Our Rights'

Friday, December 31, 2010 - 19:00
Western Africa
Sierra Leone
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Initiative Type: 
Online Dialogues & Blogs

Gender equality is very important to us girls and young women. All over the world we suffer a lot because of the gender imbalance. In some places women are not given the right to talk, participate or be educated. Women are suppressed by old traditions, which do not improve their lives.

All we are asking for is equal opportunities for all, whether male or female.

As a child growing up after the 10-year civil war, I lived with my relatives. We used to work very hard to make ends meet. I would fetch water from a very long distance and do all the housework while the boys were playing. My relatives would tell me that women should be in the kitchen.

At one point during primary school, someone wanted to select me for the position of student representative, but the school decided to give it to a boy because they said as a girl and I would not be able to control both boys and girls. I applied for one university in my country, submitted all my forms, only to get rejected. I asked the register and he told me that I did not submit my result. I know I did.

Having finished a college course, I'm still searching for a job. Some bosses will tell you 'you will get the job in return for sex'.

There is a problem in Sierra Leone with violence against women. Men should remember that a woman gave birth to them, so they must always respect a woman's opinions and views. Many women face violence in marriage because of a tradition that a woman should not refuse her husband.

Although our government is working very hard there is still a lot to be done. The government has passed a law that says any man or woman who stay together for five years automatically become husband and wife. And any man who beats his wife will be fined or jailed.

Despite these laws, we need more rights - the right to contribute to developmental projects, the right to express our opinions.

We need a change, a change about the way society thinks or feels about us, the way in which different groups think about us. We are tired of always being at the back.

Early marriage is another problem. In my country girls from the age of 10 enter into a marriage they are not prepared for.

Some families give their girls for early marriage because of tradition, poverty and lack of education. One of my friends, at the age of 12, was given to an old man for marriage.

The good news is that the government has just launched a free healthcare campaign that caters for lactating mothers, children under five and pregnant women. This is a very big improvement because my country always rates low on the human development index and there has been an improvement. More needs to be done, especially for women living in the provinces because many of them do not go to the hospital to deliver their babies. They prefer to go to traditional doctors and sometimes they die during the delivery from bleeding and other fatal complications.

There are many examples of how the millennium development goals are not yet making a difference to people's lives. We need a change. We need government to be part of that change by giving women more rights. Women living in Africa must be given the right to education. The situation is slowly changing but many people still believe that men should go to school and women should sit back at home cooking and giving birth to children, and not participating in any social or local development.

In many countries women are not given the right to participate in politics. In some African countries women are not given the right to stand for presidential and ministerial positions.

I strongly believe that the government and civil society, including the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, has a great role to play.

Girls and young women have been silent for a long time and it is time for us to speak up. No one can do it for us. We must speak for ourselves.