Underscoring the importance of the celebration, The UN Secretary General, Antoni Gutteres said “Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed”.
Antoni Gutteres stated that because of the historical division that exists in power between men and women, it had created growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, which currently leading to greater discrimination against women and girls.
He stated that the notion by men to denying the rights of women and girls in society was not only wrong in itself; but it had a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. “Women’s access to education and health services had benefited created immense for their families and communities that extend to future generations”.
This year, Sierra Leone had celebrated the IWD for 32 years since it joined the rest of the world in 1985 to yearly commemorate, through conferences, symposiums and presentation of position papers on issues affecting women.
In her comments the President of the Market Women Association, Marie Bob-Kandeh underscored the importance of the day in Sierra Leone she said it was through the day that they normally sourced solutions to women issues in the country.
She stated that “during the war, a lot of bad things happened to women. It is through this celebration that we were able to get the President to apologies to the women of Sierra Leone”.
The President of the Market Women Association further said through this day, the issue of 30% representation had been constantly raised and that the three gender laws also came about through the IWD.
Kadiatu Kamara, a petty trader in Congo Town Market said despite succeeding governments’ continual process to address issues affecting women, the rights of women are still challenged in the country. According to her in some part of the country, the rights of women to become paramount chief are denied, women are denied to own land and that women continue as tools for men’s sexual pleasure.
However, according to Amnesty International, exploitation and violence against women and girls increased during the Ebola outbreak, noting that “the Sexual Offences Act 2012 was still not implemented properly by the police.”
Amnesty International further stated that there were limited accesses to legal aid, shelter and rehabilitation services for victims of sexual and domestic violence and that health care services for victims of sexual violence were also inaccessible due to legal and cost barriers.
According to Amnesty International, Sierra Leone women’s are yet to benefit from the leverages provided in the Gender Equality Bill, which provides for a minimum 30% representation of women in Parliament and local councils and ministries, departments and agencies.
They further stated that in July 2015, Sierra Leone ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa but that steps need to be taken to domesticate its provisions.