Concord Times (Freetown)

Sierra Leone: Cispan-Sl Dialogues With Councilors, Women Leaders

Civil Society Parliamentary Advocacy Network Sierra Leone (CISPAN-SL), in collaboration with FambulTok International and with support from UNIPSIL, has concluded a one-day national interactive forum for female councilors and women leaders with the theme: "Together We Stand, Divided We Fall".

The main thrust of the conference, hosted at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, was to enhance an effective collaboration between female representatives from various councils across the country and also to increase their knowledge so as to better understand their roles and responsibilities in promoting gender issues through experience sharing among women organizations.

Giving an overview of the conference, one of the facilitators, Madam Navo Kaikai, said CISPAN-SL is a non-political organization that is concerned about the state of female representation in parliament and the councils as 65% of both councilors and members of parliament are new with limited capacity to challenge issues of national development.

She said they had partnered with FambulTok to organize interactive workshops in four regions across the country which acted as forums for female parliamentarians and councilors to discuss ways of strengthening their relationship with their respective constituents, and how they should address specific areas of capacity building needs, existing gender policies and the media.

"We found out vast knowledge on gender policy issues, poor utilization and power struggle between parliamentarians and councils, evidence of communication gap between female representatives, and inadequate support from female civil society organizations, among others," she highlighted, adding that the Bintumani conference was to validate some of the recommendations from the people and how they can be implemented.

The representative of UNIPSIL, Nabila Tunis, thanked CISPAN-SL for bringing councilors together to frankly discuss developmental issues.

She said for the past years, gender equality and women's empowerment have gained momentum in national discourse, government policies and practices as well as in the engagement of the United Nations.

"We have been following with keen interest the progress of this crop of elected female representatives and are particularly delighted at the spunk and resilience of its membership though the numbers do not aptly reflect the percentage of women citizens - 12% parliamentarians and 19% councilors against 15% female population,"noted Madam Tunis.

She added that the dialogue, which culminated the meetings held in the districts, will be used to consolidate the recommendations and define a clear strategy towards an effective collaboration among female councilors.

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