UNIFEM and Urgent Action Fund Support Peace-Building Process in Sierra Leone

Thursday, April 17, 2003
UNIFEM and Urgent Action Fund
Western Africa
Sierra Leone

New Initiative Launched to Strengthen Capacity of Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

For immediate release
Date: 17 April 2003

Media Inquiries:
Gretchen Luchsinger, Media Specialist, UN Women Mailing Address, +1 212 906-6506,

Freetown, Sierra Leone — Last Friday saw the conclusion of the first training workshop on gender-based human rights violations for Sierra Leone's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Organised by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, the workshop is part of a new training and technical support initiative to assist the TRC in its mandate to construct a lasting peace in Sierra Leone.

The TRC, enacted into law in February 2000, is mandated to create an impartial historical record of human rights abuses related to the armed conflict in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 1999. Modeled after the Commission in South Africa, the TRC will promote healing and reconciliation and restore the dignity of victims by addressing impunity and responding to victims' needs. The Commission is expressly mandated to focus on the particular needs of women and children and to pay special attention to sexual abuse as a human rights violation.

The initiative will include the design and facilitation of training workshops for the TRC as well as non-governmental organizations, to strengthen their capacity to deal with the gender dimensions of the peace and reconciliation process. The workshops will focus on highlighting the impact of armed conflict on women and children, promoting gender-sensitivity in handling female victims' testimonies and building the skills and materials necessary to deal with victims, witnesses and perpetrators in the spirit of reconciliation.

The first training workshop was organised to coincide with the April 14th start of the public hearings phase of the TRC's mandate. Florence Butegwa, regional programme director of UNIFEM for Anglophone West Africa, designed and facilitated the workshop, together with Betty Murungi and Binaifer Nowrojee of the Urgent Action Fund. The Commissioners who attended demonstrated a firm commitment to the initiative and agreed that provisions would be made for the collection of additional testimonies on sexual violence after the start of the hearings. Provisions would also be made to provide sufficient support and guidance to female victims to encourage them to testify in either open or closed hearings. Necessary support measures such as family, community and NGO support, and trauma-counseling services would also be put into place. The TRC will work closely with NGOs on women's issues during the process, with special effort going towards addressing women's needs not just as victims, but as advocates as well.