A coalition of women from the four major political parties in the country has been launched by President Ernest Bai Koroma in the southern regional capital, Bo.
The All Political Parties Women's Association (APPWA), established with the active cooperation of the local United Nations Coordinating Agency, UNIPSIL, aims at increasing the participation of women in Sierra Leone politics, particularly to attaining the 30% quota by all political parties.
Founder and first President of the 50-50 Group, Dr. Nemata Majeks-Walker who chaired the ceremony said women of this country are on the move and want to be side by side with the men, as they believe in unity in diversity.
“There is need for us to continue building mechanisms to achieve our goal of 30% quota for women and with commitment and determined efforts and good leadership of President Koroma, we will make Sierra Leone a better nation” She stated.
She called on women not to give up as their faith and commitment by President Koroma will make them succeed.
APPWA President Mrs. Isata Jabbie Kabbah described the ceremony as epoch-making because women, who constitute a greater part of the population, but poorly represented in especially Government Agencies, are now seeking to support, strengthen and build solidarity among themselves.
Mrs. Kabbah said women had contributed to maintaining peace especially during elections, putting aside party interests, but that their low education is affecting their participation. She called for the establishment of a women fund.
She commended President Koroma for allowing the Wind of Women empowerment to blow and leaders of other political parties for their active participation .
“Please do not consider APPWA as a threat but rather as a unit of development” She pleaded.
On behalf of the Female Parliamentary Caucus, its Head, Mrs. Marie Yansaneh called for gender empowerment and promised parliamentary support to APPWAs.
President of 50- 50 Group Haja S. Kassim observed that APPWA should be side-by-side with men because the burdens of the state are too heavy for men alone to carry, while promising support to the Association's goals and commending President Koroma for his positive role in nation building. “Women from all political parties are now talking rather than fighting” She noted.
L.A.W.Y.E.R.S. representative Olive Horton, called for tolerance among members and expressed gratitude to President Koroma for approving the 30% quota for women, while PPRC's Abraham John encouraged members to stay on the path of peace.
NEC Chairperson Dr. Christiana Thorpe expressed her happiness and pride as a woman, promising NEC support, while calling on all political parties to start by selecting a woman as one of the two representatives to NEC's Liaison Committee.
According to the UNIPSIL Representative, the launching of APPWA marks another milestone in the history of Sierra Leone politics. “This group will work together for the common goal of the nation and we will continue to support you” he said.
Representatives of all four major political parties, including APC's Victor Foh paid glowing tributes to the women's formation of APPWA, with SLPP Leader John Oponjo Benjamin noting that “their participation in national development is a prerequisite for nation building. Mr. President the SLPP is eagerly awaiting fulfillment of the 30% quota.”
A skit titled “Women can make a better Salone” was staged by APPWA.
The keynote address by President Koroma described the launching of APPWA as a great promise for the country, as it will advocate placing women in high and influential positions of trust in the country. “I have readily accepted your 30% quota proposal and engaged the Parliamentary Women Caucus to legislate it, adding that it is his hope that before 2012 General Elections Parliament would have ratified it” as “My desire and commitment is to see 30% women in Parliament and Local Councils” said the President.
The Head of State advised that we should make politics a friendly engagement and not a life and death issue, stating that he has been tolerant, has ensured there are no political prisoners and having encouraged youths to participate in politics, now APPWA will be seen performing great roles country wide.
“This is a great initiative and I commend the Political Parties leadership, as there are challenges ahead which will put APPWA to the test” he stated. The President acknowledged that women are in the majority and therefore they should have a lead role in the politics of the country, noting that when a woman is educated it will bring light to the country.
President Koroma expressed optimism that Sierra Leone is going places and that our priority should be concern about the development of the nation and not petty politics .He reminded that the country will be having a National Conference to discuss how the country is to progress in the next 50 years, adding that we have no business being poor.
He implored all leaders of Political Parties to up hold and support APPWA.
Members of the Executive are: I.J. Kabbah- President – SLPP, Rosaline Macarthy Vice President- PMDC, Hon Marie Conteh- Secretary General- APC, Phebean Henry- Asssistant Secretary General- NDA, Isata Harding- Financial Secretary- NDA, Massa J. J Bocry- Treasurer- PMDC, Ya Alimamy Manso- Organizing Secretary- APC and Gertrude Karimu- Public Relations Officer- SLPP.
Among those who attended are: the Leader of SLPP John Benjamin, Representative of the National Democratic Alliance Mr.Chernor Alpha Bah, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, APC Secretary General Victor Foh and representatives from UNIPSIL and the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).