The Election Conflict Prevention and Mediation Working Group (ECPMG) on Friday 23rd January 2023 held a focus group discussion with market women in the western area on conflict prevention and mediation engagements for the forthcoming national elections.

The program targets market women, persons living with disabilities, Political parties, and Electoral Management Bodies (EMBS).

The Team Lead of ECPMG, Abdull M.Fatoma, revealed that the focus group discussion targets market women owing to the frequent issues that surround them, noting that the aim is to prepare and use women as agents of peace instead of victims before, during and after elections.

Me Fatoma explained that ECPMG is a body comprising of the Eminent Women Peace Mediators (EWPM- SL), Inter-Religious Council (IRC-SL), CHRDI, Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL)

He added that the platform provides the women an opportunity to share their challenges, which they will, in turn, work on ameliorating to ensure they provide the women with the right support needed to prevent conflicts and strengthen peaceful co-existence in markets and communities.

Facilitating the focus group discussion, the Head of Eminent Women for Peace, Haja Mariama, admonished the women not to allow anyone to misuse and abuse them during electioneering periods.

She led discussions on causes Some of the issues highlighted and discussed includes; hate speech incitement by politicians, and deprivation of access to resources, grudge and political division.

Admonishing the women, the Director of Electoral Inclusion at ECSL Cristiana Oreilly said the process of inclusion indicates women’s rights to vote and be voted for, take part in political activities, and participate in decision-making processes at every level for national development.

She added that women and children are the most vulnerable persons during conflicts, and inclusiveness can never be achieved if there is no peace.

Recent census results show that the women population is still greater athan that of the men, but women continue to take the back seats in elections and political engagements.

Market women mostly ignore national dialogue and activities, prioritizing their business activities, forgetting that the business areas are always the targeted areas for looting during political unrest.

She urged the women to admonish and counsel their children and fellow market women to stand for peace.

Ramate Bandura, the market woman at Kroo Town Road Market, called on all market women to stand united for national development.

She reminded them to reminisce on the past, reaffirming that politicians only turn to them when they need votes, and disappear after elections.