Thursday, ENCISS, a Civil Society organization, and government were in a dialogue forum on women's participation in governance at the Atlantic Hall, National Stadium Hostel, in Freetown. The theme for the forum was ‘achieving a minimum 30% quota for women in all spheres of governance opportunities and challenges'.
In his welcome statement, Executive Director of ENCISS , Victor Brandon, said ENCISS focuses its work on five broad thematic areas: gender, youth, justice and security, decentralisation, and elections. He said the dialogue forum is held as a result of a prior meeting organized by ENCISS for key stakeholders from government, parliament and CSO's, on the status of the drive for full participation of women in governance in Sierra Leone, it was a consensus at the meeting that a forum be organized to widen the discussions on the issue.
Brandon said ENCISS goal is to improve accountability, strengthen citizens' voice, enhance participation in decision making and improve access to information. He said ENCISS wants an increased participation of men and women in making decision on monitoring of pro- poor policies.
Deputy Minister of Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Oya Rosaline Sankoh, said government views women issues as human rights issues as well as development issues. She said her ministry will engage the political party registration commission to see every political party adhere to the 30% quota.
On behalf of European Union Head of section – Governance and social services- Thomas Ashwalden said EU supports strongly the gender issues in EU Missions in Sierra Leone , noting that the EU uses Gender as a cross-cutting issue to encourage progress on a range of social, economic and political problems.
Giving an overview of the dialogue forum, Daphne Olu-Williams of African Kind Heart, said the forum is to enhance equal involvement of women in decision making processed at all levels in the country, built on the strengths of shared knowledge and skills.
She said the forum serves as a platform for all stakeholders, to reflect on what has been done, and review expected outcome and chart the way forward for the advancement of women.
Giving an overview on the global situation of women in decision making Director Women's and Gender Issues Researcher and Consultant, GRADOC, FBC Dr. Aisha Fofanah-Ibrahim said quotas and affirmative action for women to date seen as the most effective way of getting women into political other leadership positions. She said 40 countries have introduced gender quotas in national parliamentary elections, either by means of constitutional amendment or by changing the electoral laws. “Affirmative action and quota systems have not been enough to ensure gender equality in public offices, noting that this is because quotas do not necessarily change structures of power, “She said
Dr Fofanah-Ibrahim said in addition to quotas capacity building, collective organizing, and increasing women's participation not only in parliament but also in other spaces to accelerate quality of leadership, are needed.
Topics discussed included an update on the enactment of the affirmative action bill 2011, and a presentation on the national policy on the advancement of women.