Your Excellency the President, Julius Maada Bio
Hon. Vice President, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh
Ministers of Government,
Hon. Members of Parliament present,
Your Worship the Mayor of the Freetown City Council
Traditional and Religious Leaders
Our Development Partners,
Members of the Fourth Estate
Women of Sierra Leone,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
This Position Paper is submitted to the national peace and consultative conference otherwise known as the Bintumani III conference. This Common Position Paper represents series of engagement by Sierra Leonean women.
The women of Sierra Leone welcome the statement by His Excellency the President during the State Opening of Parliament on 10 May 2018, on the need for and purpose of an Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion in the following words: “In the last ten years, the building blocks of national cohesion and the feeling of belonging of all citizens have gravely crumbled. The recent governance strategy has been characterized by tribalism, divisiveness, exclusion and the weakening and subversion of state governing institutions.” There was a need, President Bio said, “to promote unity and national cohesion.” He proposed the creation of “an Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion to be established by an Act of Parliament” and to carry forward the Presidential Initiative. A green paper has been developed by the Ministry of Political and Public Affairs to move this process forward.
Women form over 50 percent of population of Sierra Leone and there is a serious mismatch in terms of representation in the political, social, economic and cultural fields. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) usually referred as to as the International Bill of Rights for Women, the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 calls for equal social enjoyment of women and men in all spheres of life . Sierra Leone is a signatory to so many International and Regional Instruments but the implementation is a serious challenge.
At the national level, several commitments have been made by successive governments ranging from the development of policies and laws, the general and imperative recommendations on women by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and among others. Women are confronted with under representation in governance at all levels as manifested in the just concluded 2018 Presidential and General Elections.
Elections are over and therefore it is extremely important that women are galvanized to address common agenda including effort to increase women’s participation and representation in the political and public life; tackling maternal mortality, teenage or adolescent pregnancies; education and training opportunities for women and girls; economic empowerment of women; lobbying for affirmative actions; removing discriminatory clauses from the national Constitution, Legislation and Customary Laws limiting women’s potential; addressing domestic and sexual gender-based violence, electoral violence among others.
The role of women in the ongoing discuss for the establishment of the Commission for Peace and National Cohesion is critical and important. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs brought together women from all 16 districts to deliberate on issues that will contribute to sustainable peace and national cohesion in Sierra Leone. The theme for the National Women’s Conference was “For Democracy, Peace and Development: Women’s FULL Participation a MUST”
The National Women’s Conference provided a platform for a cross fertilization of ideas through brainstorming exercises that addressed the above issues in a holistic manner irrespective of political and regional affiliation. The consultative conference provided a rallying point for women from every sphere to discuss their full involvement and participation in the ongoing discussions for the establishment of a Commission on Peace and National Cohesion and developed a position paper for the National Conference (Bintumani III). The National Women’s conference culminated in a position paper for the inclusion in the outcome of Bintumani III.
Women of Sierra Leone as part of our contribution to the National dialogue for peace and national cohesion therefore observed the following:
That women are often used as objects rather than subjects in critical national development processes
• That the TRC recognized that women and girls suffered the greatest during the civil strife but majority of the general and imperative recommendations on women are yet to be fully implemented by successive governments
• That Sierra Leone has made effort to develop National Action Plan on women peace and security but government has not committed the required funding to fully implement the plans
• That the Constitutional review process has taken too long and the current 1991 Constitution is not gender responsive and therefore discriminatory to the fundamental human rights and protection of women and girls
• That the guns are silent but rape and sexual violence continues to be used as a weapon of war against women and girls
• That the participation of women in governance and decision making continues to be low amidst all the commitments to International, Regional and National Instruments
• That Sierra Leone cannot achieve the implementation of the SDGs without fully implementing goals 5 and 16 respectively
For sustainable peace and national cohesion, women of Sierra Leone therefore recommends the following:
• Increase the number of women in governance and decision making positions as recommended by the Convention on the Elimination of ALL Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW 1979); Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995); United Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security (2000); Maputo Protocol on women (2005) and the TRC recommendation on women (2004)
• Enact the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill to include parity in governance and the establishment of the National Gender Affairs Commission
• Review the 1991 Constitution to ensure that all discriminatory clauses repealed and the revised Constitution is gender responsive
• The need to increase the participation of women in all peace processes including in the enlistment of women in the Peace and National Cohesion architecture, Mediation support services among others.
Review the chieftaincy act to accommodate women to contest as paramount chiefs particularly in the northern and some areas in the eastern provinces.
• Identify and utilize women peace ambassadors
• Proposed Peace and National Cohesion Commission should have a regional and gender balance
• Proposed Peace and National Cohesion Commission should have 50% of women representation
• Persons of disability should be allowed to participate fully in electioneering processes
• Local council elections should be non-partisan
PROTECTION AND PROSECUTION
• Capacity building for security officers, law enforcement agencies and judiciary including religious and traditional court systems.
• Fully implement international, regional and national instruments to promote and protect the rights of women.
• Improve women’s access to justice and establish appropriate sanctions for perpetrators of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
• Review and strengthen the Sexual Offences Act to incorporate the
Presidential directives of the 7th February 2019 and remove the National Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence
• Set up safe homes in every district of the country to provide temporary shelter for victims/survivors of sexual violence
• Provide witness protection mechanism
• Set up forensic laboratory in strategic locations of the country to expedite and corroborate trails in court.
• Establish a Survivors fund to rehabilitate and empower women and girls who have been abused
• Deploy Judges in all Judicial districts of Sierra Leone
• Establish database of women with expertise in women, peace and security and other areas related to development.
• The promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolutions or Mechanisms within communities
• Promotion of peace education and culture of peace in all communities
Women of Sierra Leone call on the government to invest in national early warning and early response mechanisms and Government should ensure the critical role of women in the various early waring
• Resignation period for any candidate to contest in national elections must be reduces to six months
• Ban all secret societies during electioneering processes to reduce violence against women and girls
• Security personnel should be neutral in prosecuting elections related violence
RESOURCE MOBILIZATION AND EMPOWERMENT
• Set budgetary allocation to the implementation of the Sierra Leone National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and 1820
• Establish and fully implement the Women’s Development and Economic Fund for the empowerment of women
To conclude, women of Sierra Leone notes that although the inclusion of women in peacebuilding processes has gained momentum in policy discussions over the last 15 years, the number of women in decision-making positions remains relatively small. Peacebuilding is the foundation for creating sustainable human security and equitable development in countries emerging from conflict. UNSC resolution 1325 recognizes that women are disproportionally affected by conflict, and to address this, women should play a key role in achieving lasting peace after conflict. We urge government to increase the number of women in decision making processes at all levels
I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION.