The Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Claire Buckley, has commended the Sierra Leone media for promoting the empowerment of the country’s women but urged media practitioners to do more to discourage, rather than reinforce, gender cultural stereotypes about the role of women that prevent women from engaging in politics.

Speaking at the launch of Nyapui Radio 106.1FM in Kenema early this month, Ambassador Claire said the media has been instrumental in promoting women’s political and development aspirations, and that the Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone commends all media practitioners for their support. She said existing researches, including those supported by Irish Aid (E.g. On the Campaign Trail, The Cost of Women’s Participation in Politics and Governance and Political Economy Analysis of the Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Decision-making to name just a few) indicate that the media has a critical role to play in increasing women’s participation in politics and governance.

However, she said, there have been instances where the media has disadvantaged women, especially in elections.
“We have witnessed situations where women politicians are given less coverage by the mass media than their male counterparts. It is often the case that issues of importance to women are less reported than others. The media, especially social media, has been misused in many cases to intimidate and victimise women. Mass media also reinforces gender cultural stereotypes about the role of women that prevent women from engaging in politics. The high cost of radio programmes have also limited women’s access to the media,” said Ambassador Claire.

But with the launching of Nyapui Radio, Ambassador Claire said the women in the Eastern Region, Bonthe, and all over the country now have the opportunity to own their narrative and change that situation.

“Nyapui Radio provides the opportunity to increase your (women) voices – make them louder and prouder than before. It also provides the space for women to educate their peers about their rights and responsibilities in politics and governance,” she said, adding that it is her firm hope that the radio will contribute to improving the political education of women and will become a major advocacy tool for the enactment and implementation of key governance and gender-related issues, policies, and legislations such as Gender Empowerment Bill, the Sexual Offenses Act, the Customary Land Rights Bill, teenage pregnancy and SGBV issues, etc.

“I have no doubt that the radio station will be instrumental in demystifying the beliefs wedged in traditional norms and practices that limit the potentials of women and girls in Sierra Leone,” Ambassador Claire said.
The Republic of Ireland strongly supports women’s rights to equal participation and recognizes their critical role as political decision-makers and leaders in peacebuilding processes. In Ireland’s Global Development Policy – A Better World, the country commits to improving women’s organisations and strengthening support for women’s political participation and participation in peacebuilding processes and the launching of Nyapui Radio, according to Ambassador Claire, witnesses a practical expression of that commitment.

Democratic political systems and open, inclusive societies that respect human rights are an integral part of Ireland’s core values. The country believes inclusive political and economic institutions are the foundation for jobs, sustainable economic growth, and long-term stability.

Hence, at the core of Ireland’s governance and gender work, in line with its Mission Strategic Plan (2019-2023), national policy priorities such as the MTDP and the SDs, is a commitment to support participatory democracy and good governance in Sierra Leone through the empowerment of citizens to engage in inclusive and accountable democratic institutions and processes. The country believes that a full and robust democracy depends on the equal participation of all, including women, youths, and Persons with Disabilities.

The Embassy of Ireland has been working with civil society partners to achieve this overall objective. The Embassy has been working with SEND SL for over 12 years now to promote women’s political participation, economic empowerment and increase women’s voices in governance and development processes in the three Eastern Region Districts of Kailahun, Kenema, and Kono.

Last year (2021), the partnership was extended to Bonthe District in Southern Sierra Leone, underlining the Embassy’s commitment to one of the major goals of democratic and participatory movements: the empowerment of women by their increased participation in all aspects of political, social and economic life.
The launch of Nyapui Radio is part of ongoing engagement between the Embassy of Ireland and SEND SL through the More than a Woman: Strengthening Women’s Participation in Politics and Governance (Phase I) project. It seeks to strengthen the participation of women in politics and governance in four districts: Kenema, Kono, Kailahun, and Bonthe.

According to Ambassador Claire, including the Nyapui Radio as part of this project was borne out of the need to address the many challenges women face in accessing the media to educate their peers on critical governance needs and pursue their political aspirations.
“Today marks an important day in the history of our partnership with SEND SL. It is important because we are launching the first-ever radio station dedicated to increasing the voices of women in the Eastern part of Sierra Leone – Nyapui Radio.

“As Ambassador of Ireland to Sierra Leone, I am very pleased to be part of this historical occasion, or should I say ‘her-storical’?” said Ambassador Claire, and congratulated the women of the Eastern Region and Bonthe District for this great achievement.
Meanwhile, she thanked all the district authorities and stakeholders for all the support given to SEND SL and the women Networks and reminded them all that the radio station will not survive without their continued support and commitment.

In the same vein, she encouraged all the staff and Board members to ensure that this radio serves the purpose for which it has been established – for the betterment of the political, economic, and social situation of all women in Sierra Leone.