Gaps in the Draft of the Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Policy in Sierra Leone

Essay, 2017

7 Pages, Grade: B


Table of contents


Unclear direction
Role duplication and multiplicity
No clear targets set
Too many structures for implementation

Impact on Women




The 2015 draft of the Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Policy has five parts covering (i) the gender and development context in Sierra Leone; (ii) the policy context and legal frameworks related to gender; (iii) the WEGE policy rational and objectives; (iv) implementation and operational framework; (v) forward looking short, medium and long term strategies. It proposes to be a policy framework to guide in the setting of standards for national and international actors towards attaining gender equality in the country.

The draft begins with a synopsis of the prevailing context of gender relations and previous policies on gender equality in the country. It describes Sierra Leone as primarily a patriarchal society where historical and institutionalized inequality is the social norm accepted by both men and women. Even as various governments have promulgated forward-looking and promising laws and policies, notable amoung which are the National Policy on the Advancement of Women (2000), the National Policy on Gender Mainstreaming (20000, the Sierra Leone National Action Plan on the implementation of UNSCR 1328 and 1920 (SiLNAP) 2009-2014, the 3 Gender Acts, serious constraint still prevail in actualizing the intentions of these frameworks. The author identifies low/weak budgetary allocations, weak/ non-existent structures to implement and the pervading cultural and social barriers that consider women and girls as inferior to men and boys, as key constraints affecting realization of gender equality plans and policies. The Author proposes that the WEGE policy if endorsed and supported as intended, will help address these and other barriers and enhance the attainment of gender equality results in all sectors in Sierra Leone. The WEGE policy is also expected to pave the way for a Gender Equality Bill to be passed into law in the immediate future.


Overall, I found the draft too lengthy, repetitive and in an attempt to be comprehensive, running the risk of being too academic and unattainable, considering the current context and situation of women’s empowerment and gender equality in the country and the political and socio economic realities of present day Sierra Leone. The draft policy, in trying to be politically correct; both in language and content, covers a wide range of frameworks, strategies and guidelines and proposes policy actions that may not necessarily be attainable in the near future. Sierra Leone is good for signing international and national treaties and laws without the requisite commitment in political will and resources to implement them. Policy frameworks in nature should be concise but detailed in standards-setting, procedural guidelines and in recommending strategic direction.

Unclear direction

The draft WEGE has very good situation analysis and background literature on past policies and status of women. It however does not delve into how to address the above mentioned constrained that have hitherto proved stumbling blocks to other policy implementation. How will this policy be different in the same or similar contexts? A listing of many policy objectives may make the policy un-implementable. The WEGE policy could be better placed to cluster objectives in the short, medium and long term and to prioritize actions from inception stage that will have cascading impact on the implementation of others thereby making it clear for those who are expected to implement it. Aiming for over-loaded, far-reaching, resource intensive results in a context already identified as ‘difficult’ for promoting gender mainstreaming, and equality may be overly ambitious. The link between the situation analysis and the main results are not clear.

Role duplication and multiplicity

The draft proposes institutional arrangements such as the WEGE Commission, the Gender Management System, and recommends roles for the Office of the President, Ministry of Social Welfare Gender (MSGCA) and Children’s Affairs, Gender Focal points (GFPs) as the National Gender Machinery. Many of the roles and functions are duplicated amoung these actors, which may bring role confusion, a potential for conflict and low accountability for achieving results. E.g. the Office of the President, the MSWGCA a and the proposed WEGE Commission are all referred to as the lead actor with responsibility for implementing the policy, giving guidance, setting and reporting on indicators and do resource mobilization from government and development partners for gender programmes. Such role confusion has resulted in other government structures not functioning well as no one body has specific mandates to be held accountable for.

No clear targets set

The sources of information for measuring achievements in indicators are clearly spelt out. However, the indicators themselves are not itemized. How will progress on the policy be measured? The author did mention that sector specific indicators will be mapped out by relevant MDAs, but for the strategic areas mentioned in the policy, it would have been clearer if succinct indicators were highlighted so that the policy can be evaluated. Practical results for women are not directly evident in the policy.

Too many structures for implementation

Policy directives should focus on strategic areas for implementation, partnerships and leadership structures that can support other less strategic but equally important structures and functions for the machinery to operate and meet its targets. The draft WEGE policy places very limited focus on civil society/women’s organizations which are vital for gender mainstreaming and moving the gender machinery. Where they are mentioned, it is more for resource mobilization rather than actual implementation and cascading programmes to those in need. The focus is more on the politically affiliated structures which stand the risk of losing place when government changes. The role of Development Partners is also not expanded to explain how they should support policy implementation. It is part of international treaties that donors and the international community have a role in supporting resource-poor signatory countries to achieve targets. National policies present an opportunity to leverage this support with a concise list of expectations for the donor community in ensuring gender equality in the country. Institutional strengthening is key for gender mainstreaming, but the focus on this rather than targeting actual change in women’s lives is skewed. At this rate the policy will be there to support institutions and structures at the top, while leaving downstream work unattended, which will be a missed opportunity.

Impact on Women

Although the draft is ambitious, it has forward-looking intentions that if implemented will take Sierra Leone a long way towards being a model for gender equality.

1. A functional National Gender Machinery will be in place. This will create the enabling environment for international and national agenda on gender equality to be effectively channeled and implemented for the benefit of women. Women’s interest and strategic needs are better able to be presented in national plans and accountability for results enhanced, when effective structures are in place. Having Ministry (MDA) Gender Focal Points identified amoung senior cadre, who will be adequately trained and resourced as proposed in the policy, will boost gender mainstreaming in all sectors. This will facilitate implementation of plans and strategies such as the Agenda for Prosperity, which now largely exist on paper, not in practice and bring real change in the situation of women. Gender benchmarking at national level will aid in resource mobilization.
2. The inclusion of the private sector with clear guidelines on how they can contribute to strengthening gender, will impact economic development of women.
3. The schedule for gender audits and assessments will make available evidence on progress on indicators. This will guide the government in measuring progress in meeting gender equality results for international treaty reporting but also for national planning.
4. Gender Action Plans (GAPs) have guided Development Partners’ gender mainstreaming efforts for decades now. Having a national GAP will help inform Development Partners’ GAPs and actually guide them in supporting national priorities for promoting gender equality.
5. The proposed Gender Equality Bill if passed into law, will give the much needed impetus for women’s groups to take action on many of the barriers affecting women and perpetuating discrimination and inequality. The recommendation for the revision of the Chieftaincy Act (2009) and the clauses in the 1991 Constitution (especially section 27 (4)(d) and (e) ) will open up great avenues for the women of Sierra Leone to inherit property, have marital rights and have equal opportunity for participation in governance at all levels.
6. Codification of customary law. Although a daunting task, if achieved will improve rural women’s daily existence and address long-standing discrimination against women. The process should however involve consultations to amend discriminatory provisions before codification.
7. Temporary Special Measures for affirmative action targeting women and girls in education, health and social protection, as proposed by the policy, will help alleviate the current gender gap for socio-economic advancement.


Excerpt out of 7 pages


Gaps in the Draft of the Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Policy in Sierra Leone
M. Phil Gender Studies
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Gender Equality in SIerra Leone, Women's Empowerment in Sierra Leone
Quote paper
Grace Harman (Author), 2017, Gaps in the Draft of the Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Policy in Sierra Leone, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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