Women’s voice matters: Supporting Inclusive Election in Sierra Leone
November 24, 2022
Women represent 51% of the population in Sierra Leone, however, they remain under-represented. The country records lower representation of women in elected positions contributing to 12.3% in Parliament; 15% in local councils; and 6.6 percent among paramount chiefs.
Empowering women and disabled persons to ensure inclusivity
The inclusiveness of the next electoral cycle also depends on the full participation of women at all levels, as well as persons with disabilities. The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) through funding provided by the UNDP, Ireland, and EU establishes Stakeholders Coordination Groups (Gender and Disability) at district levels to serve as a channel promoting gender and disability rights, mainstreaming the Commission’s institutional and programmatic gender policies, and disseminating electoral information to reach the grassroot level.
"This is our first time gathering women and disabled persons to discuss the issue of their participation in the electoral process. We presented the gender and disability policies that examine the role of electoral management bodies in encouraging the participation of women, girls, and disabled persons throughout the electoral cycle. The exchanges were fruitful and interesting for all. It must not stop here, we must continue the efforts" said Edmond Alpha, Electoral commissioner, Southern Region.
Today, Gender and Disability Stakeholders Coordination groups have been trained and formed in 11 districts.
Breaking the barriers
During electoral cycles, women face numerous barriers to their effective participation in civic and political processes: hostile and violent attitudes toward women’s candidacy, difficulty in raising funds, low literacy and lack of confidence and experience can impact their full participation in the electoral process.
"This training is a step in the right direction, but also an opportunity to understand the electoral process and to discuss the challenges and successes. Women should assert themselves and take their rightful place. We must encourage each other," declared Marie Bangura, Youth Chairperson of the Western Area Rural District Youth Council.
Marie also believes that now is the time to take electoral messages to the communities and the advantage is that these communities have inaugurated gender and disability groups led by people within the districts. Marie is encouraging every citizen to recall that before asking what the State is doing for you, you should ask yourself what you are doing for your community and your country.
At district and community levels, group meetings organized by the gender and disability groups are expected to present opportunities for participants to enhance their electoral knowledge and to exchange views on national instruments promoting equal participation of women and persons with disabilities in the electoral process.
"I learned a lot from the presentation, and it gives us more knowledge about the electoral process, particularly on the inclusion of persons with disabilities… At least, we know that the issue of disability will now be in the limelight for the development of the country," Edmond Alpha posited.
Thanks to funding provided by Ireland and the European Union through the UNDP’s Election Project to support the Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) and other national stakeholders in conducting peaceful and inclusive elections in Sierra Leone in line with national legislations, international electoral standards, and good practices. The project aims to strengthen EMB’s administrative capacities and expand the space for full participation of women and youth groups and persons with disabilities in the forthcoming 2023 elections in Sierra Leone.
"This training is a step in the right direction, but also an opportunity to understand the electoral process and to discuss the challenges and successes. Women should assert themselves and take their rightful place. We must encourage each other."Marie Bangura, Youth Chairperson of the Western Area Rural District Youth Council