Lazy eyes listen
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio signed the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act into law on Thursday.
The law aims to combat gender inequality and, in particular, women’s insecure employment in West Africa.
It establishes a 30% quota for women to hold positions in both the public and private sectors. To avoid exploiting low-level employees and undermining the reform’s spirit, the quota also applies to management positions.
The law also guarantees women equal pay for equal work and 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. Employers who violate the law face a maximum fine of 50,000 leones ($2,600, €2,400) per offense.
“We, men, have yet to see or acknowledge women’s rightful position fully, and this law will give us tools to correct that.
“We must put an end to impunity or violence against women in elections and public life, and we must punish all individuals and entities found guilty of such violence,” Bio said in his speech.
Women are also underrepresented in politics, with only 18 women holding seats in the 146-seat parliament and only four women serving in Bio’s 32-member cabinet.
The new quota will also apply to the legislature.
“Women seeking public office, as well as their supporters, must not be undermined, belittled, intimated, or humiliated,” the president added.
“It will not be easy because that space has long been occupied by men; we must monitor electoral processes to ensure election fairness and transparency.”
Sierra Leone has one of the world’s lowest levels of gender equality. According to the UN’s 2020 Gender Development Index, it is ranked 182nd out of 189 countries.
According to Human Rights Watch, the situation in Sierra Leone is one of systematic discrimination against women, with many women being fired if they become pregnant.
“We are happy today because our dream of improved political, social, and economic empowerment of women and girls in Sierra Leone has begun,” said Sally Ndimawa Adams, the Sierra Leone Women’s Forum’s president.