At SGUW we are pleased to announce there have been two important legal changes in the arena of gender equality in Sierra Leone. The Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Act of 2022 passed on Tuesday and the Customary Land Right Act in August.
The GEWE took a frustratingly long three years to pass. However, in the end, as the Minister of Gender and Children's Affairs Manty Tarawalli said after the bill's passing, "the end did justify the means" since the law was improved significantly in the final edit.
The GEWE is a good start as it enshrines women's power in leadership and decision making roles and provides a legal framework to increase women's economic power. One of the obvious deficits in the law is that it pegs women's representation at 30% not the 52% they enjoy in the population. Currently, women hold only 12% of parliamentary seats.
(Sorry, no fun pics today, just parliamentarians debating laws in Freetown.)
Highlights of the GEWE law
For the government- at least 30% women's representation in the Cabinet, the Parliament, all Ambassadors, Local Councils and all appointments to Civil Service.
For business- at least 30% women's representation for all positions at businesses over 25 employees and maternity leave increased to 14 weeks.
Another important piece of legislation affecting women passed over the summer, that was the Customary Land Right Act 2022. After an astoundingly long sixty years of proposals and failed bills, the CLRA finally passed and will address deep inequalities and discrimination in the ownership and control of land, especially in the provinces. As the Minister of Land, Housing and Country Planning – Dr. Turad Senesie said the new law will give rights to all Sierra Leoneans to own land anywhere, irrespective of their tribe or gender.
This is a huge legal win for women in Sierra Leone. It provides the right to land ownership for women anywhere in the country and it provides land inheritance rights for women as well.
Highlights of the CLRA
All women have the right to own land in any part of Sierra Leone, regardless of tribal affiliation.
All women have the right to inherit land in any part of Sierra Leone, regardless of tribal affiliation.
Also, all Creole persons have these same enumerated rights.
Passing laws is essential and shows a progressive movement building in Salone. The people of Sierra Leone should be proud of enacting this solid foundation for change. However, laws alone do not change behaviors, societal and economic power or bias- all of that takes time, education and much more work. The continuing fight for gender equity resides in the halls of Parliament just as it does in the courtroom where all women in Salone can now petition for the right to own land. As we struggle for equality on all fronts, we now we have a few more tools in our toolkit to right the wrongs of the past and increase women's power in the future.