To learn more about the position of women in Sierra Leone, the delegation visited UN Women. Country Representative Mary Okumu briefed them on the difficult situation of women in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has the highest maternity mortality rate in the world and women suffer from widespread gender-based violence. Political representation of women is limited, so UN Women has recently founded a non-political platform to develop women’s skills and to strengthen women's participation in national politics and public service.
The Women’s Shadow Parliament Sierra Leone (WSP-SL) is modelled on a similar initiative in Kenya, which has existed since 2003. WSP-SL Members shared their experiences with the UK MPs, who encouraged them to continue their important work and to work collaboratively with stakeholders across the country.
Five years ago, the Institute for Government Reform (IGR) was founded in an attempt to bridge the gap between national policy and the citizens of Sierra Leone. IGR is an independent, multi-disciplinary research body and the UK delegation met with its Director, Mr Andrew Lavalie. He shared some of the key outcomes of their research, including the strong sentiment of Sierra Leoneans feeling detached from politics and parliament and wanting greater transparency on public assets. He also noted the high turnover of parliamentarians and the challenges for women to enter politics, both of which threaten democracy in Sierra Leone.
As the First Lady of Sierra Leone was due to attend the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London the following month, the UK delegation was interested in learning about wildlife conservation. They visited the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a 100-acre sanctuary for more than 80 orphaned and habituated chimpanzees. They learned how Tacugama works with schools to improve education about the protection of wildlife in Sierra Leone.
The CPA UK delegation wishes to thank all the stakeholders they met with for sharing their expertise and insights with them. They look back on a productive, informative and worthwhile bilateral visit. To read more about the Post-Election Seminar held at the Parliament of Sierra Leone, please see this article by delegation leader John Mann MP.