On Tuesday, the President of Africa’s Sierra Leone approved the law aligning with the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment 2021 bill that gives back rights to women they’ve long fought for. Women in Africa’s Sierra Leone are now celebrating the rights they’ve been given back, the dues they’ve fought for all these years.
The new law is a leap towards the inclusion of women in west Africa’s significant development policies, where they do not just get agency but act as contributors to the economy. In what can be called a landmark ruling for women in the region, the bill passed also ended a sixty-year battle of women seeking ownership of their land.
Women Rights In Africa
Western Africa’s Sierra Leone region has seen women suffering from gruesome acts of violence whenever they’ve attempted to raise their voices against inequality. It’s not a recent fight, for years now several women in the region have sought their own rights but have been at the receiving end of it. Women who mustered the courage to seek a standing citing human rights were exposed to violence by men.
Having borne the brunt of traditional societal norms, women were subjected to all forms of disparity which not just limited their economic standing but also their say in major decision makings in their own families. While it’s a long way to go for the region to do right by its women, the decades-long battle ends here.
The Customary Land Rights Act reads, “Any law that excludes, limits or inhibits women from owning, holding, using, transferring, inheriting, succeeding to or dealing with land subject to customary law shall be void.”
In a land where women have been represented by their spouses for decades now, finally being given the right to have their say and find their seat at the table is a big leap.
The new law, which now pledges parity in all forms, delivered a crucial judgement today starting with women’s rights in the working environment as well.
It’s surprising to observe that while the Devolution of State Act 2007 gave women rights to legally inherit lands, the rule wasn’t followed across the state and women were completely set aside when it came to the decision-making process for land ownership.
Address gender imbalances through women’s workplace rights
Promoting women rights in Africa has been a challenge collectively for governments of states, however, a historical step as this one is always welcome provided the respective authorities in power follow through. President Julius Maada Bio signed The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act (GEWE), declaring that this bill aims to address all the gender imbalances that have taken shape in the country over the years.
The GEWE states that 30 percent of public and private positions will be reserved for women. These reservations will include both leadership and parliamentary positions. Mandating equal pay for women and men in the same job, the law seeks to penalise any sort of discrimination against women across workplaces.
“This story is why, now that we have a stable and peaceful Sierra Leone, we cannot afford to have women, who make up 52% of our population, not featuring prominently in politics and leadership. Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” – President Julius Maada Bio
In his integral speech, President Bio apologised to the women in his country for the mistreatment they were subjected to, stating that he and his government will make sure they get the fundamental rights they deserve and their voices are equally respected.
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