By: Juliana Vandy
Sierra Leone among many other countries in the world started observing the International Women’s Day (IWD) since 1985, and the event has since become a time to reflect on progress made in the advancement of women and the attainment of gender equality in Sierra Leone. In light of this the government of Sierra Leone in 2013, officially declared March 8 as a public holiday to celebrate the International Women’s day (IWD). The advocacy for women’s and girl’s empowerment and gender equality has been observed on a rotational basis March 8 every year and Kambia district in the North -West has been chosen for this year’s celebration of IWD.
The International Women’s Day observance provides a rallying point to assess progress, opportunities and challenges faced by women in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, thus each year’s celebration comes with a theme in line with a certain common challenge faced by women in the world.
IWD 2020, celebrations have also revolved around a particular theme. “I am generation equality: realizing women’s rights”. The theme is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational Campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognized as the most progressive road map for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.
In observing IWD 2020, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs established a National Taskforce and a district taskforce in Freetown and Kambia respectively, to plan the event and coin a national theme. In the first stakeholder planning meeting the global theme was contextualized to read as “Men and Boys are standing up for Women and Girls Rights”
Recent data show a rise in the prevalence of sexual offence matters in Sierra Leone, even though His Excellency the President had declared a public emergency on Sexual Violence and Rape in February 2019 which was followed by the enactment of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2019.
This development also resonates with the official launch of the ‘Hands off Our Girls’ Campaign in December 2018. However, the need to develop a comprehensive strategy for the full implementation of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2019 arose, as well as dealing with issues having to do with child marriage, child trafficking, street children and adolescent pregnancy among others. In order to address all of these issues and several others in a comprehensive manner, men and boys have a pivotal role to play. That is why, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs as part of its efforts to handle issues affecting women and girls in society, has appropriately decided to involve the male counterparts in the Campaign to end SGBV against women and girls in Sierra Leone. As part of the process of developing a National Male Involvement Strategy for GBV Prevention, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, has concluded regional consultations on draft National Male Involvement Strategy for GBV Prevention in Sierra Leone in Bo, Port Loko, Kenema and Bombali Districts on 20th – 21st February.
The Consultative meetings attracted approximately 200 participants drawn from local stakeholders in the respective districts and regions. The meeting provided opportunities to discuss and review priority areas and objectives of the Draft Strategy.