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Sierra Leone

Advancing Gender Equality (SL0027)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Sierra Leone Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Social Welfare and Children

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Health and Sanitation; Ministry of Political and Public Affairs; Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Statistics Sierra Leone and other line Ministries, Campaign for Good Governance, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, Irish Aid, African Development Bank, PLAN SL, Action Aid, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee (Development Initiative Programme), Trocaire, Women’s Forum Sierra Leone

Policy Areas

Access to Justice, Dispute Resolution & Legal Assistance, Gender, Human Rights, Justice, Legislation & Regulation, Legislative, Marginalized Communities, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: Sierra Leone Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
Women make up 50.8% of the population of Sierra
Leone (2015 Housing and Population Census).
However this representation fails to be reflected in
key areas such as literacy, economic empowerment
and decision-making and political leadership. For
instance, women account for only 12.33% of current
parliamentarians. Although some strides have been
made in areas such as legal reforms and increased
gender awareness and activism, entrenched cultural
beliefs and practices that discriminate against
women and girls, and stereotypical perception of
women and girls remain a stumbling block in
achieving gender equality and women’s
empowerment.
Despite some progress made in the quest for gender
equality and women’s empowerment over the years,
Sierra Leone still has mammoth challenges affecting
the efforts to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of
rights by women and men. On the positive side,
there is increased gender awareness among
stakeholders, some institutions have been
established to prevent GBV such as the Family
Support Unit and some legal reforms have taken
place to rectify gender-based injustices, which have
resulted in the enactment of laws such as the three
Genders Justice Acts. The number of women in
executive positions in the civil service has increased
and the first female Attorney General was appointed
2018 by the current government. The government
has also just launched the Free and Quality
Education which provides a unique opportunity for
many more girls to complete secondary school.
However, there still remains a glaring absence of
women in decision-making and political leadership.
There are only 18 women among 146
parliamentarians (12.33%). Gender-based violence
including rape is still significantly prevalent and most
of the institutions that should respond to victims and
survivors are either not available or are inadequately
equipped especially in relation to human resource
capacity and logistics.

What is the commitment?
To advance gender equality and the empowerment of
all women and girls in Sierra Leone. This commitment
seeks to minimize incidences of GBV in the country
and strengthen the mechanisms that protect women
and children; improve women’s human rights by
enhancing their access to justice through improved
knowledge of their rights, legal reforms and
enhancement of the capacity of law enforcement
agencies; improve Sierra Leonean women’s access
to political leadership and decision-making at all
levels; encourage sectorial ministries to ensure the
integration of gender-oriented goals into fiscal
policies, processes and programmes and meaningful
resource allocation focusing on women’s needs.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
Women form critical mass of the population of Sierra
Leone and therefore any initiative aimed at
promoting gender equality and women’s
empowerment will make a quantum leap in
addressing discrimination and patriarchal issues. It
will promote women’s empowerment in the political,
social, economic and cultural fields. It will ensure
accountability to normative frameworks including
CEDAW, BDPfA, AU Protocol on Women, UNSCR
1325, SDGs and Agenda 2063 among others.
The GEWE policy is to create a framework that
promotes equal rights for women and men in Sierra
Leone, as a precedent to legislation that ensures
gender equality and women’s empowerment. The
policy will ensure that gender equality is
mainstreamed and promoted as a pertinent element
to sustainable economic development. This will
greatly depend on the meaningful and timely
allocation of resources and the efficient use of those
resources to create a society in which women and
men have equal access to basic services and enjoy
the same rights and opportunities in enabling
environments.
The Bill will enumerate specific rights that reinforce
the equality of women and men, while providing in
law mechanisms for ensuring substantive equality
and women’s empowerment.
Gender-disaggregated data provides a clear picture
of the status of women and the impacts of the
interventions of Ministries, Departments, and
Agencies. This allows for more targeted and refined
interventions by government and other actors.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
The commitment helps to create safer communities,
particularly for women and girls, by putting in place
mechanisms for their physical, social, and economic
protection from all forms of GBV. Women’s participation in political and decisionmaking processes is integral to gender-responsive
policy making and inclusivity. It amplifies women’s
voices in shaping development priorities at local and
national levels.

Additional Information The Government of Sierra Leone has developed and
officially launched the Medium Term National
Development Plan (2019-2023) with a whole cluster
Five on “Empowering Women, Children and Persons
with Disability”. This plan was fully aligned to the
SDGs and Agenda 2063 which will ease
implementation and reporting. The Ministry of Social
Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has also
finalized the National Gender Strategic Plan and the
Sierra Leone National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325
and 1820.
The demand for gender quotas in Sierra Leone
derives its legitimacy from the provisions of the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report where
it is stated that 30% representation for women in
elected offices, cabinet and other political appointed
positions should be women. It was envisaged that
would increase to 50/50 gender parity within 10
years. This is in line with the obligation of the state
to take action on the CEDAW convention 1979
which has been ratified by Sierra Leone. The
Government of Sierra Leone is also a signatory to
other instruments including the UN Beijing Platform
for Action which states that governments should
commit themselves to “Take measures, including,
where appropriate, in electoral systems that
encourage elective and non-elective pubic positions
in the same proportion and at the same levels as
men” (FWCW 1995: Art.190b); the protocol to the
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on
the rights of Women in Africa states that “States
Parties shall take specific positive action to promote
participative governance and the equal participation
of women in the political life of their countries
through affirmative action” (Art.9).

IRM Midterm Status Summary

6. Gender

Main Objective

To advance gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in Sierra Leone. This commitment seeks to minimize incidences of GBV in the country and strengthen the mechanisms that protect women and children; improve women’s human rights by enhancing their access to justice through improved knowledge of their rights, legal reforms and enhancement of the capacity of law enforcement agencies; improve Sierra Leonean women’s access to political leadership and decision-making at all levels; encourage sectorial ministries to ensure the integration of gender-oriented goals into fiscal policies, processes and programmes and meaningful resource allocation focusing on women’s needs.

Milestones

  • Cabinet reviews and adopts Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy
  • Parliamentary approval of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy
  • Review the draft Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill
  • Parliament passes the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act
  • Availability of gender disaggregated data by district (health, agriculture, education)

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Sierra Leone’s action plan at (https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh).

IRM Design Report Assessment

Verifiable:

Yes

Relevant:

Civic participation, Access to Information, Public Accountability

Potential impact:

Moderate

Commitment Analysis

This commitment aims to advance gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in Sierra Leone, with a specific focus on reducing gender-based violence (GBV), enhancing women’s access to justice, improving women’s access to political leadership and decision-making, and encouraging gender mainstreaming into sectoral programs. [67]

According to the 2015 Population and Housing Census, women and girls make up 50.8 percent of the population in Sierra Leone. [68] However, despite significant efforts on the part of government, donors, and civil society, gender discrimination and inequality remains deeply entrenched. In the 2018 Gender Inequality Index, Sierra Leone ranked 153 out of 162 countries, with the indicators for reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity ranking below the average for Sub-Saharan Africa. [69] A number of factors contribute to the continued disempowerment of women and girls, including cultural practices, discriminatory legislation, [70] low literacy levels, economic disempowerment, and low levels of representation in decision-making structures and leadership positions. [71] The commitment responds to the challenge of continuing gender inequality and disempowerment by focusing squarely on the development of a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Policy and a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act. It also seeks to make gender disaggregated data available per district.

This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information, as it will make gender disaggregated data available for the first time. It is also relevant to civic participation, as the act will take affirmative action to ensure equal participation of women in government. Finally, the commitment is relevant to public accountability, as the act will establish policy and legal interventions to support women’s access to justice and grievance redress mechanisms.

At the time of the design of the commitment, Sierra Leonean women continued to experience unequal access to education, training, employment opportunities, financial resources, and land, and remain significantly absent in decision-making and leadership positions in public, private, and customary institutions. [72] Only 19.9 percent of the female population has had at least some access to secondary education (compared to 32.9 percent for males), and only 12.3 percent of parliament seats are taken by females (the average for Sub-Saharan Africa is 23.5 percent). [73] The maternal mortality ratio of 1,360 pregnancy-related deaths for every 100,000 births is more than double the regional average. [74] Gender-based violence (GBV) takes various forms (sexual, physical, psychological, economic, structural, and harmful traditional practices), but because it remains grossly under-reported (as a result of fear, stigma, ostracism, and weak and inconsistent support mechanisms), trends are difficult to determine. [75]

Over the last three decades, the government has attempted to promote gender equality through institutional mechanisms, [76] access to key international and regional normative frameworks, [77] policy development, [78] and legislative reforms. [79] Recent achievements include enactment of the Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019, which defined the offense of rape for the first time, and increased the maximum penalty for rape from fifteen years to life imprisonment; [80] a presidential declaration of a State of Emergency on rape and sexual violence in February 2019 (triggering the amendment to the Sexual Offences Act); the establishment of the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs in November 2019; and identifying empowering women, children, and persons with disabilities as a distinct cluster in the Medium-Term National Development Plan 2019–2023. [81] A gender statistician has also been assigned to the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs to assist other ministries in creating disaggregated sectoral gender data. [82]

The GEWE policy will serve as the lawful reference point for addressing gender inequalities at national and community levels and within family units. Based on equal access for women, men, boys, and girls to opportunities across all areas of the economy, it identifies 13 priority areas affecting the realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment. [83] The policy further identifies and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of institutions that comprise the Gender Management Structure [84] to ensure that the gender perspective is mainstreamed in national development plans, sectoral policies, and strategies. [85] A comprehensive set of 58 indicators across the 13 priority areas will be used to monitor and evaluate implementation. [86] The policy requires the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs to establish a mechanism for annual, national reporting to ensure regular and systematic follow-up and review of progress made in implementing the GEWE policy. [87]

If fully implemented as written, the potential impact of this commitment is likely to be moderate. The commitment is verifiable, although the milestone dealing with gender disaggregated data lacks specificity. (It is not clear who should take the lead in providing gender disaggregated data, or how such information will be made available.) The commitment represents a step forward in gender equality, as it addresses gaps in the existing policy and legislative framework. These include the affirmation of women’s equal rights, dealing with GBV, women’s access to justice and access to leadership positions and political decision-making. The commitment remains limited in scale, however, as the enactment of policy and legislation will not necessarily lead to enhanced access to information, civic participation, and public accountability for women. The commitment does not provide further details on the content of the proposed Gender and Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy and Act, and it is unclear whether the proposed interventions will address important factors contributing to women’s disempowerment, such as cultural practices, economic disempowerment, and low literacy levels.


[67] Sierra Leone’s OGP Action Plan, 2019–2021, Open Government Partnership, https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh.
[68] Medium-Term National Development Plan, Sierra Leone, 2019–2023, p. 136, http://www.moped.gov.sl/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Medium-Term-National-Development-Plan-Volume-I.pdf.
[69] “Inequalities in development in the 21st century: Briefing note for countries on the 2019 Human Development Report: Sierra Leone”, UNDP, p. 5, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/SLE.pdf.
[70] For example, the Chieftancy Act, 2009 prohibits a woman from becoming a Paramount Chief.
[71] Mr. Charles Vandi, Director of Gender, Ministry of Gender and Children, response to IRM Researcher questionnaire, 20 June 2020.
[72] Draft Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, Government of Sierra Leone, 2020, p. 4.
[73] “Inequalities in development in the 21st century: Briefing note for countries on the 2019 Human Development Report: Sierra Leone”, UNDP, p. 5, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/SLE.pdf.
[74] “Inequalities in development in the 21st century: Briefing note for countries on the 2019 Human Development Report: Sierra Leone”, UNDP, p. 5, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/SLE.pdf.
[75] Draft Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, Government of Sierra Leone, 2020, p. 12.
[76] For example, establishing the Women’s Bureau in 1988 and the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs in 1996.
[77] Sierra Leone has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (aka Maputo Protocol).
[78] For example, the National Policy on Gender Mainstreaming (2000), the National Policy on the Advancement of Women (2000), and the National Gender Strategic Plan 2010–2014.
[79] Examples include the Domestic Violence Act 2007, the Devolution of Estates Act 2007, the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act 2009, and the Child Rights Act 2007.
[80] Sierra Leone’s OGP Action Plan, 2019–2021, Open Government Partnership, https://bit.ly/3bPiqwh.
[81] Medium-Term National Development Plan, Sierra Leone, 2019–2023, pp. 136–138, http://www.moped.gov.sl/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Medium-Term-National-Development-Plan-Volume-I.pdf.
[82] Ms. Marcella Samba-Sesay, Civil Society Chair of the OGP Steering Committee interview with IRM researcher conducted on 20 June 2020.
[83] The 13 priority areas are: gender, education and training; gender, trade, employment, economic development, and social protection; gender-based violence; gender, decision-making, and political leadership; gender, health, sexual and reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS; gender, the environment, and disaster management; gender, media, and access to information, and communication technologies and innovations; gender, disabilities, and other forms of social inequities; gender, legal justice, and human rights; gender, culture, and family;  gender, peace-building, and conflict resolution; gender responsive budgeting; and building women’s capacity, leadership, and resilience to cope with humanitarian disasters.
[84] See section 5.2.14 of the GEWE policy.
[85] Draft Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, Government of Sierra Leone, 2020, p. 4.
[86] See Chapter 6 of the GEWE policy.
[87] Draft Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, Government of Sierra Leone, 2020, p. 51.

Commitments

  1. Expanding Community-Based Justice Services

    SL0022, 2019, Access to Justice

  2. Improving Access to Secondary School

    SL0023, 2019, Education

  3. Tax System Transparency

    SL0024, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  4. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    SL0025, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  5. Improve Implementation of Right to Access to Information

    SL0026, 2019, Access to Information

  6. Advancing Gender Equality

    SL0027, 2019, Access to Justice

  7. Open Parliament

    SL0028, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Records and Archives Management

    SL0029, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Gender

    SL0012, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Foreign Aid Transparency

    SL0013, 2016, Access to Information

  11. Waste Management

    SL0014, 2016, Capacity Building

  12. Fiscal Transparency and Open Budget

    SL0015, 2016, Access to Information

  13. Audit Report

    SL0016, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  14. Climate Change

    SL0017, 2016, Access to Information

  15. Elections

    SL0018, 2016, Access to Information

  16. Record Archive Management

    SL0019, 2016, Access to Information

  17. Access to Justice

    SL0020, 2016, Access to Justice

  18. Open Public Procurement Contracting

    SL0021, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  19. Publish and Revise 70% of Mining and Agricultural Lease Agreements and Contracts

    SL0009, 2014, Access to Information

  20. Starred commitment Right to Access Information Law

    SL0010, 2014, Access to Information

  21. Open Data Portal for Transparency in Fiscal and Extractive Transactions

    SL0011, 2014, Access to Information

  22. Public Integrity Pact with 5 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

    SL0001, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  23. Archives and Records Management Act

    SL0002, 2014, Access to Information

  24. Scale up Performance Management and Service Delivery Directorate

    SL0003, 2014, Public Participation

  25. Compliance with Audit Measures

    SL0004, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  26. Starred commitment Single Treasure Account

    SL0005, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  27. Extractive Industry Revenue Act

    SL0006, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  28. Scaling up Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives

    SL0007, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  29. Local Content Policy (LCP) Linkages with MDAs

    SL0008, 2014, Capacity Building

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