The APC Manifesto states further that under Dr. Samura Kamara, his government will secure these achievements and work to strengthen the economic, social and environmental roles of women in society by: “Appointing women to at least 30% of cabinet and civil service positions while encouraging the private sector to do the same; Strengthening the implementation of the gender rights act; Expanding access to finance to women-owned businesses through low interest rates and direct transfers.”
It adds that if the APC is voted for, it will expand the enabling environment through which women can build their capacity and operate their businesses competitively and profitably; Sustain gender mainstreaming into national development programmes to address challenges specifically related to women; Pursue policies that will promote sustainable socio-economic and political progress of women within their families, communities and the country in general.
Also, the SLPP Manifesto on its part states that women account for about 51% of the population and that the economic, social, cultural and political status of women in society has been identified as a major determinant of the poverty status of a country. It adds that recognition of women’s roles and their empowerment is critical to poverty reduction at the household level and to the overall development of the nation.
It adds that women face major challenges in their communities, in accessing justice, social and economic opportunities and seeking overall advancement; and that specifically, the challenges of women include (a) gender-based violence, (b) barriers to women’s economic empowerment, especially in terms of access to markets, training, finance, infrastructure, technology, education, counseling and entrepreneurship development, (c) exploitative or hazardous forms of the livelihood of poor, unskilled women and girls, especially commercial sex workers, (d) inadequate sensitization and education on gender and development issues and (e) low political participation as a result of socio-cultural, educational, legal and policy environment and economic factors.
However, it went on to state that despite the importance of gender, there is low expertise in the field of gender in the country and lack of appropriate gender disaggregated data for planning and monitoring. In addition, gender is perceived as a welfare issue instead of an economic empowerment issue. There is also need to domesticate and implement international instruments in support of gender empowerment.
It stated further that the last SLPP government made efforts to enact laws and develop policies for the empowerment and development of women. Some of these were the Domestic Violence Act (2005); the Devolution of Estate Act (2007) and the Customary Marriage and Divorce Act (2007). In addition, two gender policies: the Gender Mainstreaming Policy and the Policy for the Advancement of Women were developed.
In the SLPP’s New Direction: “We will promote gender equality, equity, empowerment, and the protection of the rights of women either as mainstreamed interventions, or as stand-alone initiatives. Our specific actions will be to: Provide training and educational opportunities for our women; Establish a Women’s Development Fund to support female entrepreneurs; Promote women in agriculture through direct support to them for large scale farming and agro-processing activities; providing market information about local and export markets and facilitate the exporting of farm products; providing improved facilities for fish processing and poultry, and promoting female access to land and other strategic resources; Enhance female access to modern energy by investing in rural electrification, clean cooking fuel and household energy needs; Make amendments to the procurement laws that would give preferential treatment to performing female contractors; Provide support for women-led organization in rural areas to participate in economic and political activities; provide free education to women pursuing sciences, engineering and medical disciplines at university; Establish a National Commission for Gender Affairs to develop, co-ordinate, monitor and support the implementation of gender laws and policies; Improve expertise in the field of gender by supporting training programmes for gender in institutions; Domesticate and implement national and international instruments in support of women empowerment; Increase the chances of women in politics through: Amendment of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone with a view to increasing the chances of women to participate in politics. Make mandatory for all political parties to enact gender policies that will specify among other things a threshold for women in executive positions and local councils and parliamentary positions. Review and enact the minimum 30% Quota Bill which creates the chance for women to hold 30% of positions in elective and appointive positions. Provide training and funding for female candidates for public elections.