Preventing violence against women ahead of Election Day in Sierra LeoneFeb 8, 2018
Exactly one month ahead of presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in Sierra Leone, Mary Okumu, UN Women Country Representative called on the people of Sierra Leone to challenge the narrative that creates the permissive environment for violence against women in elections. Dr. Okumu made the statement at the launch of the publication, “Preventing violence against women in elections: A programming guide,” in Freetown, Sierra Leone
UN Women and the UN Development Programme jointly produced the guide to aid authorities and civil society organizations to prevent violence against women in the electoral cycle.
Commissioner French who spoke on behalf of the National Electoral Commission stressed that violence against women during elections is a major concern, as it discourages women’s participation in the political process.
UNDP Country Director, Samuel Doe, reminded the audience that women constitute 53.1% of Sierra Leone’s population and yet their participation and representation in politics is very low. “There is now compelling evidence that each time we exclude half of the population in our societies, we undermine our own political and economic progress,” the UNDP Country Director added. Citing the 2016 Africa Human Development Report, Dr. Doe highlighted that Africa loses US7 billion dollars every year as a result of the exclusion of women in politics, governance, and the economy.
Echoing the rate of the nomination of women by all political parties, which is only 7%, Dr. Doe noted that such a low number suggests a reverse in gains made since the end of the war. In the 2007 elections, women’s representation in politics averaged at about 13%. That number dropped to 11% in the 2015 elections. Now, with an average of 7%, the percentage of women to be elected to political offices could be lower. He called on women, the people of Sierra Leone and international partners to reflect on the significant loss of the already modest gains made.
Mary Okumu stressed that good governance is not possible if the voices of both men and women don’t count, and 2018’s elections in Sierra Leone hold no exception.
The guide presents options for policy and programming responses based on best practices across 40 countries. It’s about fostering tolerance, increased police presence, and increased awareness as Sierra Leone counts down to Election Day.
The complete publication may be accessed here.