President Ernest Bai Koroma has officially launched the All Political Parties Women's Association Serra Leone (APPWA-SL) as part of his government's commitment to encourage active women's participation in politics and other developmental issues at various strata of society.
The Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) provided funding for the formation of the association which comprises of women from various political parties including the ruling All People's Congress (APC), the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDC).
Women groups from all over the country converged on the southern district town of Bo to mark this event, which most delegates considered to be the first step towards women's participation in active politics.
President Ernest Bai Koroma, in March this year, made two fundamental policy statements to change the lives of Sierra Leonean women. Government, according to the president, was working in concert with the Female Parliamentary Caucus to put in place the necessary structures for a legislation that will allow all women in Sierra Leone to attain the 30 percent quota in parliamentary and cabinet representation.
The president noted that the launching was significant as the association has an important role to play in changing the political landscape of the country. "I am happy to be here today because this occasion is important to all political parties and institutions that are always ready to promote political tolerance in the country. I personally apologised to the women of this country and accepted the 30% quota, and it was not a political statement. I immediately invited the female parliamentary caucus to work on the issue," said President Koroma, adding that his government has created a political environment that guarantees the operation of political tolerance.
"I will ensure that nobody is put behind bars for their political beliefs or belongings. I therefore recognize APPWA for their role in political engagements during local council by-elections and visitations to political party offices."
Giving an overview of the association's objectives, president of APPWA, Madam Isata Jabbie Kabbah aka I.J. said women are politically marginalized despite constituting a large number of the country's population. She said Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended active women participation in politics, "but this, according to the women, is yet to be achieved".
"We have noticed that the gender gap in the private sector and the civil service is wide, and it is no secret that women who opt to enter into politics are faced with several challenges. We hope that these strategies will be lauded by the various political parties, as our vision is to support and strengthen the capacity of women to participate in governance," Mrs. Kabbah noted.
"Since the inception of this group we have relatively contributed to the maintenance of peace during local council by-elections. Though each and every member of the group belongs to their respective political parties, yet the forum creates an enabling environment for all of us to discuss issues that affect women in Sierra Leone."