Power to Women Project launched in Kailahun

The Social Enterprise Development-Sierra Leone (SEND) funded by the DFID through Christian Aid working in the Kailahun District. SEND in 2009-13 with funding from DFID through Christian Aid implemented the Kailahun Women in Governance (KWIG) project to increase women’s participation in the electoral positions in the district.

The project was successful as it increases the number of women councillors from 11% (3 out of 29) to 41% (12out of 29); in addition  a network was formed in order to mobilize support for women and these women helped in educating communities with the district on how to protect against the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD).

Kailahun women participants applauding at the launching

Recently with support from the Hamilton Family in the United Kingdom through Christian Aid, SEND launched the ‘Power to Women Project’ in Kailahun.

The launching attracted many women of substance in society, traditional leaders, heads of different institutions, CSOs and NGOs who made valuable contributions and also dilated on pertinent issues affecting women in society like rape, discrimination, and financial constraint among others.

The President of Kailahun Women in Governance Network (KWIGN) Madam Lucy Gondor stated that the low level of education has constituted a barrier for women to actively participate in social, political and economic governance. She disclosed that the Electoral College that chooses political candidates for elections being all men indicates manifest discrimination against women.  

The President appreciated SEND, Christian Aid, OSIWA and DFID for mobilizing and strengthening them for development and self reliance.

SEND Country Director Joseph Ayamga in his keynote address said in a society that is responsive and responsible, cares for the private and public welfare of everyone. It ensures that the progress of men does not diminish the progress of women and that the progress of one woman does not diminish the progress of another woman.  

SEND Sierra Leone, he noted, was funded by DFID through Christian Aid to promote women participation in political governance in the Kailahun District. The project made history by increasing the number of women councillors in the Kailahun District Council from 11% to 41% in 2008 and 2012 respectively; it also established the Kailahun Women in Governance Network (KWIGN) that mobilizes support for women empowerment.

Dilating further, the Director said Sierra Leone’s population has more than 50% of women, according to the Agenda for Prosperity, women and men accounted for 11% and 89% of top government positions respectively as of 2013, and of the 456 district Councillors, only 87 (19.1%) are women.  In the Kailahun District, even though women make-up a significant number of the Councillors, their influence in decision making remain inconsequential.

The Program Manager of Christian Aid Dr. Steven Kaindeneh lauded the district women for implementing the project, noting that the political trend as it is Kailahun has the largest women councillors who are very active in the developmental strides not only the district but the country as a whole.

The chairperson of the ceremony Stella S. Ansumana said women issues are very important and should not be neglected; issues like teenage pregnancy which is now in the increase in the district, rape, gender based violence, inherent culture among others are threats to women’s development and has the tendency of taking a whole nation backward.

She urged political parties to amend those draconian laws and policies that debar women from playing active role in politics.

In her statement councilor Theresa Satta Garba said for far too long now before the coming of SEND, women have been in the backyards of in the farms and business places, little did they know that they can be role models in their communities, chiefdoms, district and the nation at large. ‘We thought of our economic, our financial challenges and we never opt to take up leadership positions, especially in politics because of financial constraints. Money determines political outcomes in Sierra Leone. It brings power and numbers because we live in a society where sometimes, people exchange their conscience for money. If you are not financially strong, don’t attempt to contest local and national elections,’ she stated.

She maintained that their problems as women has been less knowledge about their rights, ability to speak in public, and how to dialogue with the powers that be.

However SEND Sierra Leone has taught them leadership, dignity and provided them with unlimited courage that has sharpened their horizon that took them out of bondage. The result of such support, she noted, is that out of 29 councilors in the kailahun District they now have 12 women in the last election, which they are determined to increase in the next election.

Despite these successes, there are still challenges that limit them as women leaders and also denied other women from seeking similar positions in the future. For example, six of us are heads of committees in the district council, but these committees mean nothing to them. She noted that their names are only on paper and on the notice board, as decisions and activities are being carried out by a small number of the council’s administration, ‘We are not informed about projects of the council and as a result, contractors of service provision in our wards do not regard us as stakeholders of the communities.’

The women of Kailahun continue to suffer because we lack good roads. We risk our lives during the rains, especially councilors to attend council meetings, yet our chairman rides in his car with tinted glasses. So he does not really know that the roads are that bad. Our hospital is in bad shape, but everyone defends his or her turf. She said.

Welcoming members, madam Satta Ndolleh said the education of the of the girl child is a national concern for every development partner and individual. Six years ago, the Kailahun Women in Governance Network was launched with the support of SEND and its donors, and presently they have over 500 women organized into zones and district levels executives providing leadership and support for women empowerment. These women, she noted, are those who have overcome their differences to advocate for the empowerment of others,  educating other women and letting everyone know that being a woman is good for the preservation and nurturing of society, ‘we are women and we don’t regret being women.’  

Various statements were made by the head of Family Support Unit Alpha Koroma, who gave a statistics of rape cases in the district amounting to two hundred, the representative from the Ministry of social Welfare and gender, ministry of education, political parties, NGOs representatives among others.

Story by Salifu Conteh

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