6 Promote gender equality and empower women

Where we are?

Woman Voter

As in many other developing countries, the status of women in Sierra Leone is immersed in deep cultural discrimination by traditional customs and laws which must be overcome in order to achieve gender equality. Many forms of discrimination against women still exist and women are generally less empowered than men.

Near gender balance has been attained in primary school enrollment, but with a higher dropout rate among girls, their school completion rates are subsequently much lower. Even with an immediate turnaround, equality cannot be reached by 2015. Sierra Leonean women have not yet been able to achieve equitable political representation at different levels of government to respond to the need to meet goal three. Women constitute 52% of the population but only account for 15% of Parliament and 19% of local councilors.

Sierra Leone is making progress in establishing a policy framework to promote gender equality and empowerment of women. The creation of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in 1996 and a Parliamentary sub-committee on gender affairs reflect the commitment of the Government to meeting Goal 3. In 2007 the Government enacted the Domestic Violence Act, the Devolution of Estates Act, the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act and the Child Rights Act. All of these Acts have been specifically tailored to address issues of violence, discrimination and abuse against women and girls. It is also notable that Pillar 8 of the forthcoming Government’s Agenda for Prosperity (2013-2017) focuses on Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment.

To achieve the target of promoting gender equality and empowering women by 2015, the 
following national priorities need to be addressed:

  • Sustain gender equality in education at all levels without compromising quality.
  • Strengthen advocacy campaign strategies to combat culturally entrenched attitudes that discriminate against women.
  • Domesticate ratified international conventions, protocols and declarations on gender to consolidate efforts towards the achievement of genderequality and empowerment.
  • Enforce the application of affirmative action or the quota system as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2004 Report to facilitate the achievement of gender balance targets in Parliament and other political offices.
  • Provide adequate resources, institute coordination mechanisms and ensure effective monitoring and evaluation of programmes in gender-specific and gender-related sectors in the country.

UNDP's work in Sierra Leone

Targets for MDG3
  1. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
    • Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
    • Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
    • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament