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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sierra Leone Elections 2012: Where is the Female Voice? Part 1

On my recent trip to Sierra Leone, I witnessed various conditions that women  experienced that raised concerns for me. In the capital city of Freetown, night life was something that always intrigued me. I ran into many young aged girls during the evening hours who were hanging out with much older "Lebanese and white men" and older tourist Sierra Leonean men in social scenes. Clearly these men were not their friends, brothers or fathers. I asked a few of my friends who I was hanging out with about these regular occurrence that I saw each night I went out to Lumley beach, no 2 and even some of the night clubs.  I was told that most of these women were prostitutes. I wondered what could lead most girls at such a young age to turn to this market in our country? I was in no way judging because I can only imagine that no one chooses to be involved in prostitution.  This is just one of the many issues women undergo in Sierra Leone, and it is directly linked to lack of access to education and employment opportunities to sustain their livelihoods. 


 After the civil war in Sierra Leone many of it's citizens have been left with very few opportunities, and with the social sectors (education, health, gender, infrastructure) still in need of development, those who are feeling the drawbacks of this under-development are the women and children of our society. A friend of mine told me "This is what poverty does, their families won't demonize it because it is their only option and therefore it becomes an unending cycle". I believe these cycles of poverty can be mitigated by our leaders through constant dialogue and representation of the women that are impacted by these economic conditions.


There needs to be more education and economic opportunities for women in our society. According to a report released by UNGEI " an estimated 69 percent of primary aged children attend primary school. Though attendance rates for boys and girls are almost equal at the primary level, there is a dropout rate for girls and their enrollment in secondary education is low with net a secondary school attendance of only 19 percent. " Most of these low numbers and drop out rates are due to poverty, child pregnancies, and early marriages. With the elections coming up in the November, and a new government on the horizon women are demanding a change for the rights of women in Sierra Leone

As we approach  elections this year, I can only hope that the women's voices are heard more heavily represented in the voting process, and also that Sierra Leonean women of all ages are represented.  I am taking a leap to release my wishlist for the livelihood of Sierra Leonean women, this wishlist I believe will be the stepping stones to creating better livelihoods for Sierra Leonean women. 


My Wishlist 


1. The government should put into place the clause from the 1991 constitution which indicates that there should be a 30 percent representation of women leaders in the SL government and it also calls for the establishment of a womens commission in the Sierra Leone government. 


2. Women who hold positions in the government should represent the voices of not just high society women but that of those women who matter the most those who are on the bottom of the totem pole, those girls who have no rights and are in very dangerous predicaments. 


 3. The government should ensure that businesses hire more women in public and private sectors.


4. The government should ensure that there are laws to protect women who are in these predominantly male working environments. 


5. The government along with organizations, and businesses should develop entrepreneurship incentive/mentorship programs for women business owners to encourage them to start up businesses, or scale up their established businesses in order to be competitive in the global African market.


Resources 


1.Sierra Leone Gender Strategy Plan
http://www.carl-sl.org/home/commentaries/454-summary-sierra-leone-national-gender-strategy-plan-2010-2013

2.UNGEI Report on Sierra Leone
 http://www.ungei.org/news/sierraleone_2316.html


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