Gender Equitable Local Development in Sierra Leone

In all of Africa, Sierra Leone has been chosen as one of the best practices for further studies in the area of gender and decentralisation by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)”. Speaking to the Head of UN Women in Sierra Leone, Melrose Kargbo, and her team at the UN Women Office in Freetown, Madam Okumuvisiting from the UNCDF Office in Johannesburg, commended the GELD project that is being piloted in the Kenema City Council in the eastern parts of Sierra Leone.  The ECA, she went on, wants to document theprocess and a midterm review that will show how gender was mainstreamed at the local government level is scheduled to take place soon.

In conveying the message on the importance of gender within decentralisation, she said “we need to go beyond highlighting the inputs and show the methodology – how it has worked for Sierra Leone”.The goal now is to move this process from the decentralised government to the central government and vice versa. Madam Okumustressed the exemplary nature of the GELD project in Kenema, describing the level of engagement of women in the affairs of the Kenema City Council and their depth of knowledge on the budgeting processes. She applauded the Sierra Leone Gender Technical Team for their robustness and overall cooperation and attested to GELD being a showcase of “the UN delivering as one”.Revealing plans for the scaling up of GELD in four additional districts in the north and south of the country, she spoke of a pending monitoring and evaluation missionthat will aim at looking specifically for emerging lessons and possible policy implications, and an analysis (on how to get women into critical management roles) on the soon to be concluded GELD guesthouse project in the district.

According to UN Women, the backbone behind this success of the GELD project was owed to the thorough assessment and baseline survey that was undertaken during the initiation phase of the project.  Madam Kargbo confirmed that the women were becoming bolder to participate in the development activities of their local communities; this can be clearly seen from the increasing number of women vying for positions in their Local Councils for the 2012 elections.

GELD has created a voice for women to demand access to services (preventive and reparative including health, education, employment and safety) at decentralized level. One of the pillars of the ECOWAS programme on Violence Against Women (VAW) is to create space for women at grassroots level (most especially rural women) to influence relevant policies on VAW. GELD programmes target local level planning and budgeting systems and processes, making them gender responsive with the aim of achieving gender equitable development results. GELD also works with the local authority in order to incorporate gender dimensions into their procedures (by laws, guidelines, processes, rules of engagement, practices and strategic plans).

For this third quarter, UN Women has allocated the sum of $43,000under the GELD project for two activities aimed at empowering women farmers and business-minded women in the Kenema District.  The project will help increase the productivity and income levels of women through the provision of agricultural extension services and trainings on entrepreneurial skills. Sierra Leone was selected with two other African countries, Angola and Morocco, for further studies on best practices in women’s empowerment and gender budgeting respectively.


Source: UN Women’s sub-Regional Office in West Africa (UN Women WARO) Blog.