During the recent United Nations Sierra Leone Country Specific Configuration review meetings at the UN, Sierra Leone's Civil Society participated and made a deep and stirring impression. As we said in our previous reports, each and every member of the Civil Society fascinated stakeholders, development partners and other members of the international community with their analyses of socio-political and economic issues in post-conflict Sierra Leone, as well as the peacebuilding initiatives of the government and the country's gallant strive to create a democratic society where women and vulnerable members of society were empowered. The eloquent women and man demonstrated how much voice Civil Society now enjoys in the new Sierra Leone. We bring you snippets of their statements during the open debate at the UN and a pictorial display.
Mrs Isatu Kabbah (Women's leader of the opposition Sierra Leone's People's Party, SLPP, also representing the All Political Parties Women's Organization): wife of former President Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
She called for multi-stakeholder approach in peacebuilding. She said women constitute 51% of the population and played a great part in bringing peace to the country and are also contributing to economic development but lamented that their visibility and participation are low th0ugh the government is doing a good job in promoting gender participation. She lauded government's efforts in providing access for women to free health care and justice and for the laws adopted against sexual violence. She condemned “female genital cutting ” and called for more efforts to end the practice. She called for increased participation of women in governance. She said out of 124 parliamentarians, only 16 were women; only 2 women held full cabinet positions while only 4 were deputy ministers. She stressed that women were demanding 30% representation in parliament and governance after the 2012 elections.
Madam Marie Jalloh (All People's Congress (APC) Parliamentary Representative for Constituency 35, Bombali who came to New York to represent the Women's Congress)
She said that the emergence of the All Political Parties Women's Organization has helped to change the dynamics in Sierra Leone .She went on: “We fought for peace and democracy in Sierra Leone .We have a lot to do and the international community is helping a lot.” Lauding the APPWO , she noted that there were still a lot of issues to be confronted, “but we are doing our best through gender and civil society participation. ”
She said that there is solidarity among women in Sierra Leone and she spoke against what she described as the feminization of poverty, which , along with illiteracy, were a menace. She called for literacy programs for women and said she wanted to see women having economic capacity, and able to purchase and own their own properties. Present new laws in Sierra Leone now make this possible. She called for the setting up of an entrepreneur base for women. She also spoke against ‘female genital cutting ‘ and said that violence limits women's political participation. She said no one has questioned why female genital cutting has persisted. She called for capacity and confidence building programs for women.
She spoke about the evil effects of early marriage and female circumcision and how they were retarding women's progress in Sierra Leone. She also condemned the act of women working in quarries, breaking stones to gain a living. She called for accessible safe drinking water because men rape women who go searching for water. She called for tough laws to punish those whose engaged in violence against women.
Moses Ndomahina (representing Transparency Organization – the only make in the Civil Society delegation)
He praised the government for efforts being made towards gender empowerment. He also called for more support to empower women in Sierra Leone and said his organization was committed to support of the 30% quota in participation being demanded by women.