Sierra Leone passes law to improve women rights

Sierra Leone Gender Minister Manty Tarawalli [Photo: Oxfam Pan Africa]

Sierra Leone on Thursday passed a law to improve women’s rights including better employment rights.

“Today is a historic day when Sierra Leone can rightly say it has legislation carefully designed to do away with gender inequality,” said Gender Minister Manty Tarawalli.

“Today is an important step in the right direction but more steps will have to be taken before the country can say fairness has been achieved across the genders,” she added.

Under the new Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act, 30% of government and private sector jobs in the country are reserved for women.

Women will also now benefit from ring-fenced senior positions in the workplace, at least 14-week-long maternity leave, equal access to bank credit and training opportunities.

Meanwhile, there are harsh repercussions for employers who do not stick to the new gender ratios including hefty fines, and even potential prison time for financial institutions 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.

This comes as Human Rights Watch has described the situation in Sierra Leone as one of systematic discrimination against women, with many being fired if they become pregnant.

They have however commended the government for passing the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act.

“We are happy today as our dream for an improved political, social and economic empowerment of women and girls in Sierra Leone has started,” said the head of Sierra Leone Women’s Forum Sally Ndimawa Adams.

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