Female opposition lawmaker, Hon. Veronica Sesay, representing Constituency 85 in Moyamba District, southern Sierra Leone, has called on all political parties to encourage and empower more women to participate in politics in general and parliamentary politics in particular by according them more opportunities to contest for parliamentary seats and to be given key positions in Parliament.
Hon. Sesay made the call immediately after the election of a new Speaker of the House, an all male contest between the eventual winner, Hon. S.B.B. Dumbuya of the ruling All People's Congress and Hon. Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party. The process also saw the election of a male Deputy Speaker of Parliament in the person of Hon. Chernoh Bah.
When quizzed as to why female MPs did not nominate one of them to vie for the position, Hon. Sesay rhetorically retorted that how could they nominate a woman and lobby their male colleagues when there are less than 30% of women in the 124-member Parliament, including 12 Paramount Chiefs from the 12 districts in the provinces.
The current Parliament has only 15 female MPs representing both parties. Hon. Sesay though concerned about the unimpressive figure, is determined to lead the campaign for change.
"We will continue to advocate for more women to enter Parliament as we could not nominate a woman for positions in Parliament because of the number we have, despite the parties we belong to," she said, adding that they will lobby the new Speaker when the Gender Empowerment Bill is tabled in the House for the 30% quota for women to be given statutory endorsement.
Hon. Sesay expressed fear that the new Speaker might not be neutral in his presiding over parliamentary debates, admonishing that he should not regard himself as Speaker for the APC. "I hope he will do justice to the entire House," she said.
Speaking about the general welfare of Members of Parliament and the vicinity of Parliament, she said the Speaker knows the constraints of lawmakers more than an outsider, and that she was confident he will champion their constraints.