Sierra Leone on Friday 10th March 2023 hosted its first event on the margins of CSW in New York. The event was hosted by the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs in partnership with purposeful on the topic “Advancing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Sierra Leone”.

The purpose of the event was to share the components of the Act and the corresponding implementation Plan.

In her opening remarks, the Moderator and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation, Madam Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara said Sierra Leone has come a long way in the emancipation of women as Sierra Leone is a signatory to many international and regional normative frameworks including; the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Maputo Protocol for Women.

“In Sierra Leone, women form at least 52% of the population and it is therefore imperative that we address the gender imbalances that exist in our country,” she added.

The Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Hon. Manty Tarawalli gave a background to the groundbreaking law.

She informed on the enactment process which she said was initiated by the development of the GEWE Policy as the overall framework.

The policy she said, includes 13 objectives across 10 sectors. She added that the implementation of that policy took two approaches: 1) mainstreaming and 2) groundbreaking law.

The mainstreaming approach, the Hon. Minister said is to ensure that every sectoral policy, legal instrument, and work plan integrates the gender dimension applicable to that instrument in Sierra Leone, and with the support of UN Women, a secretariat has been set up to facilitate gender mainstreaming.

Hon. Minister Manty stated that it took the Ministry 13 months to galvanize support across the country for the GEWE Bill.

“I can say that real hostility was what we experienced in the first four months,” she added.

She said that changed when the conversation moved from rights-based to economic growth. When men realized the economic benefits to the country to move Sierra Leone to a middle-income country and the benefits to their communities the spirit of change began.

The Minister however noted that the ultimate change came, when President Julius Maada Bio went on public TV and radio to say he supports the bill and called on Parliament to pass it.

On the implementation of the Act, the Hon. Minister said the Ministry has developed a Steering Committee and an implementation plan which has been rolled out to UN Agencies and other partners.

“In the June elections we are going to see more women in Parliament, councils and by having more women in leadership and parliament it means women will be better placed to advance the gender agenda,’ the Minister stated.

Dr. Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection in Liberia said the President of Liberia has committed to the 30% quota to see more women in parliament. She said the National Election Commission and all political parties are already pushing that agenda.

She noted the current ruling party has committed to 40% of its party leadership to be women with 30% already achieved.

The Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Ms. Asa Regner commended the Minister for the GEWE Act. “It is a landmark law”

She continued to say that from research data from UN Women when once legislation is introduced to advance the gender agenda, change happens. Societies and political traditions for practical understanding and acceptance of women’s participation happen, she added. She pledged UN Women’s commitment to supporting the implementation of the Act.

As the GEWE Act received more commendations in the room, the Irish Ambassador said the law is revolutionary and the game changer in Sierra Leone. He said they will be looking forward to seeing how the Act will effect change in the whole of society.

“From the side of Irish Aid, we will continue to collaborate with the government on the implementation of the Act, investing in technical, administrative, and financial capacities to make it happen,” he said.

The Founder of Girls Plus, Madam Asmaa James said the new gender law is a big deal for Sierra Leone. She added that the Act is a monumental advancement for gender equality which is fundamental for ensuring women and girls achieve their highest potential in all spheres of life.

16-year-old Blessing K. J. Kutubu, from the Youth Advisory Panel, Plan International Sierra Leone, warmed the room with her bold statement. Blessing asked the entire room to applaud the Hon. Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Madam Manty Tarawalli.

Blessings who referred to the Act as “a secured future for girls in Sierra Leone” said that her generation stands to benefit the most from the new law when implemented. She noted that giving single mothers access to finance would mean indirect support to girls. She said the security and protection of women in the workplace from sexual harassment will empower girls to take those positions in the future.

She called on the Minister of Gender to set a foundation for Sierra Leone girls, “girls are telling the Ministry, the government, and everybody sitting here to empower us, we can do better. When the implementation is successful it creates a brighter future for young girls,” she noted.