To raise awareness about the significance of women’s rights and their roles in decision-making and leadership at the district level, a dynamic dialogue was organized by the Women’s Forum for Human Rights And Democracy (WOFHRAD).
The event, held at the SLTU Hall in Makeni on Tuesday, 1st August 2023, saw over fifty participants representing diverse groups, including traditional leaders, women leaders from various organizations, and political party representatives, coming together to address the issue of gender equality.
Under the sponsorship of Irish Aid Trócaire, the engaging dialogue facilitated by Kemoh Mansaray and co-facilitated by Isatu Fofanah delved into several vital aspects. Participants discussed the barriers preventing women from participating in decision-making, strategies to enhance their presence in decision-making structures, and the roles of stakeholders in fostering such inclusivity. The stakeholders collectively generated action points to drive meaningful change.
Speaking to NewsFeed Leone, Emilia Kamara-Jengo, Co-founder and Programs Coordinator of WOFHRAD, emphasized the importance of the post-election engagement. She expressed their commitment to identifying and addressing barriers that hinder women from attaining leadership positions and adequate representation.
Kamara-Jengo revealed that some misconceptions about the involvement of women in chiefdom administration were clarified during the discussions. Contrary to previous assumptions, it was discovered that certain Paramount Chiefs are indeed willing to offer opportunities to women, but some women shy away from seizing these opportunities. As a response, WOFHRAD plans to visit various communities to inspire and empower women to participate actively in decision-making.
Sudie Austina Sellu, Trócaire’s Women’s Empowerment Lead, highlighted that women’s underrepresentation and lack of voice in decision-making spaces have been persistent issues. Despite constituting 51% of the country’s population, women’s perspectives are often overlooked.
To tackle this imbalance, Trócaire funded the engagement to address the existing challenges and create more opportunities for women in leadership positions, particularly at the chiefdom level. Sellu expressed her satisfaction with the candid discussions that took place during the engagement, and she looks forward to further community-level dialogues and engagements with relevant institutions to address the identified barriers.
The traditional leaders, in their submissions, praised WOFHRAD and their donors for organizing such a crucial engagement. PC Masa Yali Tham III of Gbanti Chiefdom acknowledged that women had been hesitant to participate in politics and chiefdom functions.
However, he noted that through the training and engagement initiatives of WOFHRAD, attitudes were changing. Paramount Chiefs, as the custodians of the land and upholders of traditions, have a critical role in ensuring women occupy key positions in chiefdom administration. PC Masa Yali Tham III revealed that they have started appointing women to serve as section chiefs, chairpersons, and members of local courts to promote gender inclusivity.
Yabom Poro Sesay, a Ceremonial Chief of Gbendembu Chiefdom, emphasized the need to share the insights acquired from the engagement with her colleagues to inspire and encourage their active involvement in decision-making. She vowed to boost their confidence and make them realize the importance of seizing opportunities to be part of the decision-making process.
Overall, the dialogue organized by WOFHRAD served as a vital platform for stakeholders to collaborate, address challenges, and develop strategies to promote women’s participation in decision-making and leadership, ultimately contributing to a more gender-inclusive society.