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Sierra Leone News: Give us party symbols or we won’t vote!

For far too long women have been clamouring for adequate representation in Parliament. Unfortunately, their cries have been literally ignored. Although the 2015 census results revealed that women make up 51% of the population yet they occupy only 11% of parliamentary representation.
Despite calls and recommendations from various commissions, groups and position papers from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to the Constitutional Review Committee, recommend a 30% quota allocations to women. The Citizen’s Manifesto also demanded for 40% quota. All recommendations from every organization have been ignored.
Yesterday, Thursday 20 December 2017, women marched through main streets of Freetown starting at Savage Street in the Western and Up-Gun in the East. The women processed into the city central to congregate at the Cotton Tree. Huddled under the overarching branches, women called on political parties to heed to their call for a 40 or 30% quota to women in the distribution of party symbols. The masses of women said, “Give us 30% or we won’t vote!”
Haja Marie Bob Kandeh, President of Market Women Association said they are advocating for more women participation into the coming 2018 elections pointing that the past 15 years have been wasteful because they have been pleading for 30% quota into governance which according to her has not been fruitful.
Kandeh said, “This time around we are focused on the party symbols being awarded to more women by all political parties. We are not focused on quotas but rather fair representation of women in governance. When more women are awarded party symbols, development will be transparent, accountable, the interest of their communities will be prioritized.”
The mass march of women was organized by the 50/50 Group, Women’s Forum, UN Women and CGG.
Marcella Samba Sesay, Chair of National Elections Watch (NEW), said they converged in solidarity of the position of women in the country calling on all political parties to award symbols to women to participate in the 2018 elections. She said there are lots of women that had came out in preparedness to participate in the coming elections because according to her, “We are tired of cooking, dancing, supporting political parties so this time we want to fully participate.”
The major streets around the Cotton Tree were supposed to be jam-packed and over-crowded with women from all sectors but the representation was perceived to be of the elite class.
The procession, according to Marie Conteh at Kroo Town Community in Freetown, was organized for the elite because most grass roots women were not allowed to do the mobilization, which was missing. Conteh added, “Many of us, we the women, are busy at home or at the market or at work at this time.”
She advised that programs need to be handled by community women so that more women will come out from various parts of the city. She however described the campaign as ‘timely’ and of great importance because women have been left out and quiet a too long.
Friday December 22, 2017.

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