Women in Sierra Leone are stepping on center stage in a steady but slow pace to play their part as equal partners in national development. That movement, precedes roles by leaders the likes of educationist Dr. Talabi Lucan, Chief Justice, Hawa Tejan-Jalloh; Chief Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Christiana Thorpe; university professor and former Vice Presidential candidate, Dr. Kadi Sesay and women's right advocate, Nemata Majeks-Walker, to mention a few. But women are far from accomplishing their target for equality. More has to be done to pave the path. Women lag far behind men in decision making institutions, employments and access to education. This trend must change fast.
Throughout history, women have been relegated to the roles of ‘mothers' and ‘wives,' with duties that revolve within the confines of home-related chores: cleaning, cooking, babysitting and rocking the cradle. But that was then. Times have changed. This is the 21st century. Politics, education, employment or any other human endeavours are not exclusively for men, or for them to dominate. Even though women account for more than half the country's population, they only account for a trifling 15 percent in the political arena at both national and local levels.
The idea of ‘being seen and not heard,' no longer holds. The ideology of patriarchy, structured as a means to dominate and oppress particularly womanhood through so-called norms of society, have no place in society anymore. The meaning of patriarchy was ill-conceived as a tool to determine what shall or shall not be women's role in society. Such ancient-inherited mentality is what is responsible for the state of affairs of women all over the world. It structures society as we know it today. As such, blames for the state of affairs should not be levied on governments alone. But governments have the biggest stakes in seeing women through.
The claws of patriarchy have gone rusty beyond repairs, and women are now saying a big ‘No' to male dominance, and ‘Empowerment Now!' But women themselves must do more. Much has been done over the decades for women to now realize that they ought to be regarded as equal partners in every sphere of life. The future depends on their display of courage and determination. More women, particularly the young, should get into party politics, starting by being active in their local communities as volunteers, organizers, leaders, councillors, educators, etc., and strengthening their advocacy and engaging in all civic activities.
That women are now occupying leadership roles in politics and other areas, should serve as stepping stone for their advancement. Those in other walks of life must also push for more women involvement and empowerment. In doing so, women would be recognised and appreciated, not just by their male counterparts, but by society at large.
Sierra Leone, like every other country has a responsibility to meet the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals. Whether those goals could be achieved sooner or later is another question. The fact remains, however, that there is no way it will be, without the full and unhindered participation of women. In that regard, education of more women and girls is of vital importance.
Chadia Talib is a writer, women's right advocate and entrepreneur. She lives in Bo, southern Sierra Leone
Education builds confidence and the will power to forge ahead. Education is power. It gives people the ability to make informed choices. It helps in a significant way to halt abuses of women such as their being regarded as sex tools. Now is the time for women to grab the moment.
Leading women all over the world have cracked open and cruised through the iron gates of oppressions to take the lead. Examples of such women are Sierra Leone's UN Under Secretary General on Sexual Violence, Zainab Bangura; Prime Ministers: Indira Ghandi of India, Golda Meir of Israel and Margaret Thatcher of the UK; Sierra Leone's first female political figure, Ella Koblo Gulama; Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Malawi's Joyce Banda, and Russian cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkov, the first woman ever in space, and a host of other women revolutionaries.
These women fought doggedly to free themselves from the chain of oppression to take the world by storm. And for the women in Sierra Leone and women everywhere, there should be no holding back. It was with that spirit of determination that America's lighting rods, slavery abolitionist and pioneer of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, known as the first lady of civil rights and the mother of the freedom movement, changed the course of mankind, a time when suppression of minorities let alone women, was law.
Sierra Leone has made great strides in accepting women in governance. Also, women now head some of the leading institutions in the country and making positive decisions in the President Ernest Koroma's Government. But women deserve more. We want to see women coming out from behind those closed doors and exercising their God-given prowess.
If women can take the lead in raising Presidents, judges, ministers, scientists, lawyers, teachers, journalists, among other career persons, then there is nothing they couldn't do. Women have been proving their mettle since the advent of the human race.
More women should be allowed to take their places – shoulder to shoulder – alongside their men counterparts. Society can't push them around anymore. - Chadia Talib is a writer, women's right advocate and entrepreneur. She lives in Bo, southern Sierra Leone