While delivering her keynote address during the commemoration of International Women's Day last Friday, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, stated that the value of a virtuous woman is priceless, as she is always confident, considerate and pays attention to whatever she does.
She was speaking at the British Council Hall on the theme 'Better the balance, better the world.'
Dr. Schwartz commended the British High Commission for acknowledging her and the women of Sierra Leone, especially when the rate of sexual violence against women and girls is on the increase.
She promised that they would continue to celebrate the day as a government in order to help achieve the goal five of the Sustainable Development Goals.
"We need the better the balance to improve on gender equality. Leadership should be an individual challenge for women and girls. The value of a virtuous woman is priceless as she is always confidence of what she does. She is considerate and emphasises on things she does. The legal woman contributes to the development of the nation. You must not be comfortable in the roles and quotas of representation that we have been given," she said.
She stated that women should be involved in active roles and be placed in leadership positions.
The Attorney General said they have been reminded about the increased rate of violence against women every day, coupled with them being under represented, while girls are forced into early marriage.
She said her office was working very closely with the gender ministry and other women's forum to help raise the awareness, but noted that the move would be successful if male counterpart gives their helping hand.
She appealed to all citizens to avoid trading off underage children into early marriage and protect them from all other forms of violence against women and girls.
Dr. Schwartz stated that from 2012- 2017, there was zero percent of women who competed for presidential position, but 13 percent participated in 2018.
She said 13 percent of women held cabinet positions in 2012 and that the percentage increased to 18 in 2018.
She said 2 women contested for the Paramount Chieftaincy, adding that the country has 8 female judges, a development she said manifested that Sierra Leonean women were making progress.
In his statement, British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington, said UK was doing what they could and very proud to assist Sierra Leone for the past 30years in supporting and empowering women and the girl child education program.
He said they were working very hard not to leave women behind, as it was very sad to see them being discriminated against.
"If women have the same goal as their male counterpart in the environment, it will be good for the nation. When a girl has education, the nation will be healthier with better employment and the society also, will be happy to have her. That will add value to the nation as we saw their participation during the last elections. We will continue to support Sierra Leone in other to empower women and girls," he said.
He promised that they will continue to help strengthen the fight against sexual violence, while stating that they welcome the declaration made by the president.
Former UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Dr.Zainab Hawa Bangura, said it was important for women and girls to always go in search of what they actually needed in life rather than accepting what has been given to them.
She said if donor partners wanted to bring development for women's health, education, there was need to consult them as they know what they wanted in life.
"Women always make decisions for other people leaving themselves behind. For women, leadership means taking care of others first and that is why we have different definition of leadership as compared to that of the male counterpart. We always give the best to others. If development should be for women, they must be fully involved. I am urging all women to know that they should go for what they want in life, make sure to find it and be there. We all should aim for higher things and don't compromise our principles," she said.
Country Representative for Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Joe Pemagbi, said the celebration of International Women's day was a reminder for everyone to respective women and also a reminder of the achievement that the country has made in supporting women.
"As a nation, there have been some progress but is it enough for our women? Should we put more emphasis on the sexual offences Act? There is need to give them the support. We have to do more. Is this day worth celebrating or is it a reminder for the government and the men to back to the drawing board and interrogate a lot more? We should promote women in politics and also educate the girls more," he emphasised.
He called on political parties to open doors for more women to participate and also He called on LAWYERS, Legal Aid Board and the Rainbow Initiative to continue supporting women.