On Saturday, December 15, 2012, President Koroma opened the First Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone 2012. In his speech for the occasion, the President touched on a wide range of national issues, promising to “take the country to another level” in this second round of his administration.
“Empowering Women” was among the issues he touched on, albeit briefly. That the issue of women only came up in paragraphs 93 and 94 of his lengthy 106-paragraph speech is cause for concern about how true he will be to his words. As brief as these statements are, however, women of Sierra Leone and all who care about their issues, must pay careful attention to them, taking them with a pinch of salt, as we watch how things unfold in his second and last term in office. Women must be vigilant in observing how the actions of the President in the immediate future correlate with these statements as well as take actions to keep him honest.
President Koroma’s speech.
women IN A REGRESSIVE STATE
Women performed very poorly in the 2012 Elections, even though it could not have happened without their tremendous efforts.
At a glance:
- In the Presidential race, no woman was in the contest
- None of the 4 women who contested as vice-presidential running mates succeeded
- In the Parliamentary election, women only won 14 of the 124 seats
- In Local Elections, none of the women won mayoral or district chairmanship seats
- There are no women among the 12 Paramount Chiefs in Parliament representing their Districts
- There is currently NO WOMAN in a ministerial position in the current cabinet of President Koroma.
In essence, the 2012 Elections put women in a regressive state of political leadership in Sierra Leone; they lost seats in Parliament and failed to gain new grounds in other areas – half of the Rural Districts have no women representing them in Parliament and of those that do, their numbers are miniscule.
In a time that we should all be expecting political progress for women around the globe, the trend in Sierra Leone is to remove women farther away from it, which essentially puts our beloved Sierra Leone’s prosperity at risk; without the other half of the population’s contributions there can be no development.
On face value, President Koroma, in his speech, seems to be promising to reverse this trend in his second term. Should women sit back and relax trusting him to keep to his words?
We believe that President Koroma will keep his promise but only IF women themselves take actions to keep him honest. Just as “empowering women” is not in the first 50 paragraphs of his speech, we must be realistic and keep in mind that too many other issues on his agenda are considered more urgent than women’s issues. He is, therefore, not going to stay true to his words on women’s issues without women themselves taking action to push for their issues to be given priority and for his government to know that women matter.
Women of Sierra Leone, the ball is in your court!
President Koroma is right to point out in his speech that “Deeply embedded socio-cultural practices have over the years skewed the development of women in Sierra Leone and tilted the gender equality scale…;” however, as we ponder this, we must think about the roles women have played in perpetuating our own socio-political marginalization in the land that we all love and toil for.