(shown in photo: Zainab Umu Kamara)
Director Sabra Bano and team members of Gender Concerns returned this week from a training mission in Sierra Leone. The mission was in support of the gender unit of the national election commission. With wide experience in Gender Election Monitoring, Ms. Bano and her team were glad to bring applied experience to representatives of the West African country.
While there, the Gender Concerns team met some inspiring women who are actively participating in the political and social spheres of their country. One example is Zainab Umu Kamara, Acting Registrar, Political Parties Registration Commission. Her views on progress and challenges are expressed in the following essay:
WOMEN ARE KEY TO EVERY NATION’S DEVELOPMENT
Women account for 52% of the total population in Sierra Leone, yet occupy less than 20 percent of elected positions. Their contributions to the country’s agriculture amount to about 60-80 percent and the agricultural sector represents 51 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, their voice visibility, participation and representation in elective and appointment positions still remain relatively low. Women seeking leadership and decision making positions in Sierra Leone face enormous challenges compared to men. Some of these challenges include:
· Lack of economic independence
· High illiteracy and entrenched customs and traditions
· Lack of confidence to vie for public positions for fear of embarrassment of losing
This situation therefore spurred the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) to organise an intra-party dialogue for women of the political parties in the country in 2010. The women passed a resolution to set up an association that will seek the welfare of women in politics by promoting, protecting and respecting all women in all parties and build solidarity among them.
Following this resolution, the Commission held a joint workshop for women of the aforementioned parties. It was then that they decided to have an association called “The All Political Parties Women’s Association, commonly known as APPWA.
APPWA’s Mission Statement is to “Build solidarity and the capacity of women from different political parties to address the inequalities between men and women in governance, political parties’ structures and processes as well as to advocate for a minimum 30% quota (as recommended in the 2004Truth and Reconciliation Report ,TRC ) in all spheres.”
APPWA has engaged in activities ranging from capacity building programmes for grass root and other women vying for leadership positions, advocacy and sensitisation for the development and enactment of the Gender equality bill, nationwide voter education programmes thereby increasing women’s participation in the 2012 elections, non-violence campaigns followed by a joint press release denouncing violence.
There were important achievements in terms of women’s increased access to key political leadership positions. For the first time, a woman was elected mayor, council chairperson and minority leader in parliament.
APPWA is a novelty in Sub-Sahara Africa. Devoid of their differences in ideologies, party colours, manifestos etc, in the interest of peace and development of Sierra Leone upheld the values of the land. If only women the world over will emulate “APPWA” then the world will be a better place for women. Women should promote the concept of altruism, respect, love and above all be confident in all spheres of life. Women should be seen, heard and their opinions respected. Women should not relent until they secure better spaces for the less privileged women and girls in our society. Work for the emancipation of these women and make history.
On behalf of the Commission, let me end by stating that women are key to every nation’s development and they must be considered within their political parties and society as a whole. I hereby implore all political leaders the world over to promote and practice gender equality, thereby leading to a greater and better output in the work or drive of your parties.
Zainab Umu Kamara, Acting Registrar
Political Parties Registration Commission, PPRC