9 November 2012

Sierra Leone: Few Women To Contest November Polls

Photo: AllAfrica
Riot police in Freetown (file photo).

With barely a week to Sierra Leone’s elections slated for November 17, Only 38 women out of a total of 586 candidates will contest parliamentary seats and the blame for this can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the current group of female lawmakers, according to Barbara Bangura, the director of the women's organization Grassroots Empowerment for Self Reliance.

The November 17 elections will also be Sierra Leone’s third election since the civil war ended in 2002 and the country will see its first female vice presidential candidate, Kadi Sesay from the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), run for office, there are not many women joining her in the race for parliament. There is no female presidential candidate. But in addition to the low number of candidates running for seats in the legislature, there are only 337 women out of 1,283 candidates for local council elections.

According to Bangura, one of the leading women's activists pushing for the enactment of the bill has squarely laid the blame on the Women's Parliamentary Caucus. Women from the caucus were meant to champion and table the bill and lobby their colleagues for its enactment, but they did not succeed, because of what the activist calls a lack of interest on their part."We had to be hard on their heels; they did not show enough interest in pushing the bill forward and also getting their parties to support it. Now many of them are not going back to parliament, as they have not retained their seats. I hope they have learned their lesson," Bangura added.

Effective political participation by women remains abysmally low in this country of 5.9 million people. Before parliament closed, just 17 out of the 124 parliamentarians were women. Women make up 18.9 percent of female councilors in the local government none at the level of chairwoman and they comprise less than 10 percent of top civil service positions. The public information officer of the Human Rights Commission (HRCLS), Henry Sheku, stated that the enactment of the Gender Equality Bill would have affected the development of the country

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