Women and peace-building in Sierra Leone : 2002-2011

Date: May 26, 2014
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This purpose of this study was to analyse the nature of women’s involvement in peace-building in Sierra Leone. The various dimensions of peace-building as set out in the African Union’s Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PRCD) programme, adopted in June 2006 by heads of governments in Banjul, The Gambia, served as the framework for analysis. The PCRD emphasises the incorporation of women in all peace-building efforts (and the mainstreaming of gender in all policies), and sets out a range of areas in terms of which women are required to be included. These are: political transition, government and democratisation; security; human rights, justice, and reconciliation; humanitarian emergency assistance; and socio-economic reconstruction and development. The analysis of the nature of women’s involvement in peace-building in Sierra Leone in these areas is structured in terms of efforts made by the government in complying with the PCRD, the efforts made by women’s groups (local, national, provincial, regional) in the country and the involvement of international organisations in partnership with either the government or women’s groups to provide assistance to female victims of violence. This study found that the government had many policies and laws which provided for women’s inclusion in peace-building efforts in the country (i.e. de jure commitment). However, its de facto commitment is questionable, since very few of these policies have in fact borne fruit. Women, for example, were not included in the 1996 Abidjan and 1999 Lomé Peace Accords – in both these agreements they were portrayed as victims needing protection, rather than as agents of change. Moreover, female representation in parliament over the past 12 years has not exceeded 14.5 per cent; the DDR programmes was largely gender-blind; the transformation of the security sector (such as the police and military) did not result in women’s inclusion in decision-making positions within these institutions; and, finally, despite the fact that the government specifically emphasised the importance of resuscitating economic activities among women in the 2005 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, there was no concrete strategy to achieve these goals. This has affected women’s involvement in the economy, since obstacles in the form of male attitudes towards their role in the economy continue to persist. However, women’s groups, on the other hand, were actively involved in facilitating women’s inclusion in peace-building efforts in the country. Groups such as the 50/50 Group have been active in mobilising for the implementation of the 30 per cent quota for women’s representation in parliament. It also conducted capacity-building workshops and training programmes to empower potential female candidates for both local and general elections. The Sierra Leonean chapter of the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE-SL) played a pivotal role in addressing the trauma caused by sexual and gender-based violence. Further efforts by women’s groups include: providing capacity-building programmes to empower women (including female ex-combatants) excluded from the DDRR programme; addressing the psycho-social needs of female survivors of war (in collaboration with international organisations); providing financial and medical assistance as well as trauma counselling and healing programmes to female and child victims of domestic violence and rape; running skills training centres and other educational activities in order to increase literacy and education among women, and building emergency schools for girls whose schools were destroyed during the conflict as well as providing educational information at entry points to female returnees on their rights; and, finally, providing micro-credit loans (by the Sierra Leone Market Women’s Association (SLMWA). This has been an important aspect of the efforts of women’s groups to resuscitate economic activities among women.

Publisher: University of Johannesburg
Year of Publication: 2013

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