Sierra Leone Takes Groundbreaking Step to Improve Women’s Rights with New Law

By Duchess Magazine

Sierra Leone has made history by passing a new Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act (GEWE) to improve the rights of women in the country. The law, which was passed on Wednesday, is being hailed as “ground-breaking” and includes several measures aimed at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

President Julius Maada Bio apologized to women for their poor treatment in the past and stated that “For so long we haven’t been fair to you.” The law requires that 30% of public and private jobs must be reserved for women and allows girls who are still at school know “there are opportunities for them in Sierra Leone for employment for business” and for them to contribute to the economy.

The Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawalli, said the law meant a lot to women in Sierra Leone and that no other sub-Saharan African country had passed such a law. She added that the law will change the status quo and that more steps will have to be taken before the country can say fairness has been achieved across the genders.

The new law also includes ring-fenced senior positions in the workplace for women, at least 14-weeks of maternity leave, equal access to bank credit and training opportunities. Employers who do not stick to the new gender ratios will face hefty fines of £2,000 ($2,500) and even potential prison time for institutions like banks that do not give women fair access to financial support. The government says the employment law will apply to any business with more than 25 employees, but a final decision has not yet been made.

This new law is a huge step forward for women in Sierra Leone and is expected to help women to start their own businesses and contribute to the economy. Prior to the law, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA) said that progress had been made in expanding opportunities for women and girls in the country, but warned that gender inequality and denial of women’s rights were still prevalent at all levels in Sierra Leonean society.

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Joseph Omoniyi

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