The National Electoral Commission (NEC), with support from the European Union, has launched the newly Adopted Gender and Disability Policies at the Golden Tulip Hotel conference hall in Freetown on 1st and 2nd October 2019. NEC takes significant efforts to promote women’s and disables participation in the electoral process and make the Commission gender and disabled responsive institution. The newly adopted policy documents demonstrate the commitment of the NEC to mainstream gender and disability perspectives into the NEC’S strategies, electoral procedures, guidelines, and monitoring processes and timely engagement with state institutions, political parties, and electoral stakeholders to ensure more women and disables involvement in forthcoming elections as Voters, contestants, and electoral staff.
To further promote gender and disability mainstreaming in public and electoral processes and create awareness, the NEC with support of the European Union has rolled out the gender and disability policies in regional centers of Sierra Leone with the participation of wider spectrum of electoral stakeholders. These events were held in September and October 2019 in Freetown, Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Port Loko.
Deputy Head of EU Delegation, Madam Jamile El Assaidi underscored the importance the EU poses on gender equality and disability issues. She assured the EU’s continuous support in upholding people’s rights and ensures that the right of particularly vulnerable groups like women and people with disabilities are respected. Madam Jamile El Assaidi admonished participants to discuss relevant issues on gender and disability, and make meaning recommendations that will serve as action points for implementation.
NEC Commissioner South, Edmund Sylvester Alpha thanked the EU for the level of support provided to the commission for the Gender and Disability Policies. “We are happy because of the wind of change taking place, we are now moving with women side by side,” he said and added that there is the need to rethink the electoral system in the country to have more women representations. “We should be partners in disseminating the Gender and Disability Policies,” he said.
Madam Aminata P. Kargbo, the Chief Administrator at the Western Area Rural District Council, remarked that her Council is committed to raising awareness on gender and disability issues as one of their devolved functions. Many women, she said are faced with discrimination in spite of the fact that they form a greater portion of the population. “Women have played a major role in changing the country; their roles in decision making should be improved by men in high places. Women should demonstrate their commitment to being recognized in all development spheres,” she noted.
Dr. Aisha Fofana Ibrahim of the 50-50 Group revealed that it is important to have policies but understanding and implementing them is crucial. “We should ensure that we understand the policies to their fullest and get them implemented to their fullest so that the rights of those they are meant for will benefit,” Dr. Ibrahim said and furthered that “it is important to include men and woman in all development process.” NEC, she said should assure women that they have an agency to make their own choice. She thanked the EU for supporting the process and advised that each political party should make good use of the policies.
Mrs. Augusta James-Teima, President of All Political Parties Women Association, recalled that before now it was difficult for women to speak in public places, and added that gender issues should not be a war-like but an understanding between men and women for the progress of the country. “Women have talents and potentials that move the country forward. We have the human right to be where we are supposed to be. If we are given the chance we’ll do our best,” she noted and reiterated the fact that women should be in the position to mix it up in the home and national development. Men, Mrs. James-Teima said should help women make use of what they can offer. “We face some challenges like an economic burden when we want to come into politics such as nomination fees.” She pleaded with NEC to make the fees a bit reasonable so that women are not left out, because, as she put it “Women have different ways to participate in the development process.” “We should support each other for success and we are more than ready to disseminate what are in the policies,” she concluded.
Support to the NEC is an integral part of the financial agreement signed between the European Union and the Republic of Sierra Leone in October 2017 to ensure the continuation of the partner support to the NEC in the post-election period. Funded by the 11th European Development Fund, Hulla and Co. Human Dynamics KG was contracted by the European Union to implement the EU Support to the Governance Sector Technical Assistance to Sierra Leone in the areas of Civil Service Reform, Parliament and the Electoral Cycle program with the overall objective to strengthen democracy in Sierra Leone. The purpose of the program is to assist the beneficiary country to deliver specific results in support to the electoral cycle, parliament, and civil service sector.