Sierra Leone’s 30 percent women’s movement has failed. The Gender Equality Bill did not make it to parliament before the last session closed. The Bill would have mandated that all political parties reserve 30 percent of their party symbols for the elections for women. Without a quota to enforce a more equitable distribution of political power, there will be even less women in the incoming parliament. Women are just 6 percent of those vying for parliamentary seats in the upcoming November 17th elections.
Barbara Bangura a member of the 50/50 Group and director of Grassroots for Self Reliance (GEMS) argues that female parliamentarians are to be held responsible for inaction on the bill.
“I still blame the women in the political parties. I always say that women do not know the power they have; we always say to them you are a woman first before you belong to a political party. Not all of them with party symbols will win. So whilst we are looking at the women that actually have symbols we have to look at the ones that will go through, that will win seats in parliament and council, we will definitely see decreased figures.”
At the close of parliament the number of women in the legislative body was 17 out of a total 124 seats making up 13 percent. With just 38 women running for parliament in this election that means that there will be less women there when it reconvenes for the next session. That the women’s activists and the politicians could not find an equal ground is evidence of ongoing infighting within the national elite women’s movement.
How is it that in a time when women’s activists are most vocal, that women’s participation in politics has rescinded?