Local Legislation and 1325 Workshop Concludes in Kissy, Sierra Leone (June 27-29, 2012)
GNWP’s third workshop on Capacity Building and Local Legislation and 1325 & 1820 that took place in Kissy (Sierra Leone, Western area) from June 27 to 29 concluded yesterday. Kissy, which is part of Freetown City, lies in the Eastern part of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. The traffic from the west of town to the east is fantastically terrible and with the daily rains the past week we were happy that the majority of participants had agreed to stay in residence for the 2,5 day training.
In 2000 and 2008 The United Nations Security Council passed Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820 respectively. The resolutions recognize the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women, and the potential of women’s contribution to the prevention of conflict and peacebuilding efforts. The resolutions demand that Member States take effective measures to promote women’s rights and to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. The local legislation and 1325 & 1820 program, supported by the Government of Canada and the Folke Bernadotte Academy of Sweden, is a shift from awareness raising on UNSCRs 1325 and 1820 into action on the ground.
The participants in the workshops are local district/city councilors, paramount chiefs and tribal heads, members of the Family Support Units, religious leaders, members of the security sector, and leaders of women’s groups. The workshop sessions include group exercises on conflict analysis, discussions of the two resolutions and Sierra Leone’s National Action Plan on 1325 and 1820 (SiLNAP); presentations of the role of local councils in implementation of issues of women and peace and security; and presentations on formulating by-laws. The expected outputs of the trainings are action plans on integrating UNSCR 1325 and 1820 and the Sierra Leone National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 (SiLNAP) in local council development planning processes, and recommendations for concrete by-laws. Additionally, GNWP and its partners in Sierra Leone, including the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Decentralisation Secretariat, will draft guidelines for further integrating SiLNAP into council development plans.
The workshop in Kissy targeted only two local councils – the Freetown City Council and the Western Area Rural District Council (WARDC) – whereas the previous workshops in the districts of Kenema (Eastern Area) and Bo (Southern Area) had 5-6 district councils represented in each. The Western Area Rural District and Freetown City together comprise almost one third of Sierra Leone’s population of an estimated 5,3 million. The Western Area also differs from other regions of the country in that there are no Paramount Chieftaincies in this area. Tribal Heads appointed by the President play the role of Paramount Chiefs here. The Paramount Chieftaincies are highly influential in Sierra Leone, and many Sierra Leoneans’ lives are guided by chiefdom or traditional governance. Currently, a new government policy that will encompass both chiefdom and tribal administrations is being rolled out. The policy will lead to the formulation of a national law for traditional authorities in Sierra Leone.
To our delight the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Ambassador Dauda S. Kamara attended the opening session of the training on Wednesday. In his opening statement he emphasized the importance of implementing Resolutions 1325 and 1820 in countries such as Sierra Leone, still bearing the scars of conflict. He further noted that implementation requires “action at the national and local levels” as peace, security and development at the local level is a prerequisite for achieving these at the national level. He expressed his delight at the expected results of the workshop – to come up with practical ways in which the local councils can implement UNSCR 1325 and 1820! Acting Deputy Mayor Bode Gibson of Freetown City also gave an impressive opening statement in which he gave a detailed outline of the contents of UNSCR 1325 and 1820. He was very well briefed! The Deputy Mayor also noted that, “Freetown City Council over the years has fulfilled its role and formed a committee that reaches out to women and girls as specified by both resolutions.”
One of many highlights during the three days was the visit of Ms. Zainab Bangura, newly appointed United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. (During our workshop in Bo last weekend we had received word that Ms. Bangura, Minister of Health and Sanitation here in Sierra Leone had been appointed to replace Margot Wallstrom of Sweden.) Ms. Bangura thanked the women of Sierra Leone for her achievements and said she counted on their support as she takes on this significant role. She also vowed to work with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and encouraged us to contact her once she takes office in New York. And indeed we will take her up on that!
The workshop was inspiring and productive. The focus and dedication of the participants was remarkable and I sensed a level of analysis that I did not experience in the previous workshops. Although conducting four back-to-back trainings is a challenge it has also allowed us to incorporate lessons learned immediately. Improved guidance from the part of us as organizers during the group sessions allowed for deeper exploration and improved results here in the Freetown training.
“I am happy that there are ward committee members here and tribal heads. This workshop has involved women from the grassroots, which I think will have a multiplier effect,” said Councilor Sembia Johnson of the Freetown City Council and President of the Council of Women Councilors. “Some grassroots women still feel that [women’s issues] is an elitist thing, only for educated women.” Councilor Sarah Umu Sankoh from the Western Area Rural District, Waterloo noted that the workshop had provided an opportunity for councilors to become more active. “Personally I have become more motivated and feel empowered to go back and do my work,” she added.
Oju Wilson, Legal Officer at the Decentrilisation Secretariat said that the workshop had provided insight for the various stakeholders on how they can go about “ensuring that when they are preparing their development plan some of these issues are actually inputted into the plans.” To my question on whether our desired output of coming up with concrete recommendations of which activities within the SilNAP should be drafted into by-laws, Wilson responded that formulation of by-laws are key. “By doing this kind workshop we have realized that we can have uniform by-laws for all 19 local councils, which will assist in the law procedures that you will have to undergo if you want to formulate by-laws for each local council. If we are able to achieve by-laws it will be a remarkable success in terms of implementing this particular project.”
Once again we were pleased to be joined by Mr. Steven Gaojia, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs for the closing session. The Minister noted the significance of the local councils and building the capacity of local councilors when it comes to issues of child protection, women’s participation, gender equality and women’s empowerment and congratulated GNWP and our member National Organization for Women on the success of the workshop.
Minister Gaojia to the delight of the whole group informed us that his engagement following the closing of our workshop was to sign the Sexual Offenses Bill, which has been under revision for some time. He will then lead the presentation in Parliament in the coming weeks in order for Sierra Leone to have this robust Sexual Offenses Bill eventually passed into law! Congratulations!
The second workshop for GNWP’s Local Legislation Capacity Building project took place in Bo, the second largest district in Sierra Leone. Bo prides itself as being the cleanest district in Sierra Leone and even enforces a mandatory cleaning day the last Saturday of each month. And truly the streets and highways in the district are very clean especially when compared to Freetown and Kenema.
Just like the workshop in Kenema, the participants to the workshop comprised of Councilors, Paramount Chiefs, members of the Decentralization Secretariat, Civil Society representatives, Family Support Unit, Office of National Security, representatives from the Mayor’s office.
At the opening of the workshop, one of the 14 Woman Paramount Chiefs out of the overall 149 in Sierra Leone, Ms. Ruth Tutu Fawundu-Songa called on women to support one another. She recited her own campaign experience in which her main opposition was women of the community. Following her statement, Rebecca S. Aruna, Acting Mayor of Bonthe District officially opened the session by intoning “More Women! Better Politics!” from the way most of the participants joined her apparently a very famous slogan in the community. She encouraged women to participate in the coming elections in November. She also called for the end of violence against women which often hinders women from full and active participation in decision making processes.
In their presentation on their understanding of good governance, the councils gave a context of the situation in their respective administrative structures. Here, the presentations were very interesting as the participants were open and gave a full critic of what actually happens on the ground. They were open in criticizing each other and also identifying their weaknesses.
The councils also drafted their action plans on what they plan to do after the workshop in terms of implementation of the SiLNAP by integrating it into their CDPs and identifying possible activities that could be translated into by-laws. In giving their commitments afterwards, all of the participants pledged to create awareness of the UNSCR resolutions 1325 and 1820 as well as the implementation of the SiLNAP.
Lastly, the workshop was concluded with a traditional ritual by one of the Paramount Cheifs who blessed all the partcipants in their future endeavors and wished the best of luck for Gladys Gbappy Brima, founder and coordinator of GNWP member Women’s Partnership of Justice and Peace, who is running for a seat in the upcoming elections in November.
The Local Legislation and Capacity Building Workshop kicked off on June 19 in the Eastern district of Kenema in Sierra Leone. The workshop has the objective of enhancing women’s capacities to participate in discussions and decision-making on peace and security issues.
The Deputy Mayor of Kenema City Council Madam Margaret Shiaka spoke at the opening and outlined the importance of capacity building of women within the decentralization process of Sierra Leone as it will strengthen the existing governance structure at local levels in the country.
The most interesting part of the workshop for me was the Conflict Analysis Exercise undertaken by each of the countries and represented. Each country described the conflict in their communities, who the actors were and also the root causes of these conflicts. This process gave me an opportunity to grasp the different aspects of conflicts within the countries represented as they gave a full analysis of the impact of the conflicts on their families, their communities and most of all the impact on women.
There were other interesting sessions which included an introduction of 1325 and 1820 by Dr. Nana Pratt (NOW-SL). She gave a background on some issues from the Sierra
Leone National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and its implementation and its link with the local legislation process in the country. There was also an analysis of linkages between development, peace and security and good governance. Here, the participants divided into groups and shared their understanding of what constitutes as good or bad governance and how they see the existing governance structure in their local council area. They then analyzed the relationship between the Local Council and Cheifdoms and how they relate to each other including on ways this relationship can better be enhanced and more effective. This session gave rise to a heated debate on the existing structures as there were representatives from the Council as well as the Cheiftan structure of Sierra Leone.
The last day involved the development of specific action plans for activities related to UNSCR 1325 and 1820 that should be integrated to Council Development Plans (CDP) and those that should be written into by-laws that will help in reinforcing the existing laws in the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on women peace and security. Here, the participants identified and committed to enforce the activities that are within their committees.
Although all the participants acknowledged the importance of having by-laws to reinforce the existing national laws, they also noted that so far no by-law has been adopted in Sierra Leone and that various drafts are back logged in the Solicitor General’s Office waiting for approval. In my opinion the focus should now divert to having the already drafted by-laws approved and put into effect. The importance of by-laws in reinforcing existing national laws is of course unquestionable. However, their effectiveness will only be realized if and when they are adopted thus emphasizing the need for advocacy and lobbying on the issue.
For pictures from Kenema go to our flickr page!
After three intense days packed with sessions on monitoring and the use of indicators, data collection and analysis, developing advocacy strategies, heated discussions and group work, GNWP on Friday concluded its first 2012 training on monitoring the implementation of UNSCR 1325. The training, which took place in Freetown June 13-15, was co-organized by the GNWP Coordinating Team and GNWP members National Organization of Women (NOW) – SL, Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP), MARWOPNET and Women’s Forum (SL).
2012 is the third year that GNWP is conducting the monitoring exercise. Sierra Leone was part of the first report in 2010 but in 2011 our Sierra Leonian members were unable to participate. We were therefore delighted to be able to conduct a training on indicators in Freetown and mobilize resources for the monitoring to be carried out.
Through the 1325 monitoring initiative, initiated during the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 in 2010, GNWP contributes to the call for greater accountability by all actors, particularly national governments regarding implementation of UNSCR 1325. The program is designed to build the capacity of women’s organizations in monitoring policy implementation. In 2012 we are putting a strong focus on developing advocacy strategies.
Fatu Kargbo, Chief of Cabinet of Minster of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Stephen Gaojia, who opened the workshop, noted the role women have played in peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. “This is all the more reason why they should be encouraged to acquire the requisite skills for informed data collection, collation, analysis and reporting,” she said.
“GNWP’s invitation to this workshop is very timely,” says by Jeneba Koroma, Regional Gender Desk officer for the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. “The coordination and collaboration is very important especially when you talk about national evaluation of the resolution.”
To promote cross-learning and partnerships in implementing UNSCR 1325 we had invited members from Burundi, DRC, Liberia and Rwanda to take part in the monitoring training in Freetown. “The workshop has helped us understand all components of the different indicators,” says Annie Matundu from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF-DRC), who is involved in the project for the second year. “We have also learned about data analysis. We will share this information in a workshop with our network in DRC.” “Normally we collect data but analyzing the data in order to identify gaps on which we need to work, was not really familiar for me,” adds Immacule Ingabire from Rwanda Women’s Network.
Honorable Minster of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Stephen Gaojia closed the workshop by assuring GNWP and all participants of his governments full support for “all initiatives [GNWP] wishes to do in support of the women of Sierra Leone.”
Next on GNWP’s schedule are workshops in Kenema, Bo, Freetown (rural), and Makeni, where we will carry out our initiative on capacity building and local legislation and 1325/1820. We will work with the Local Development Councils on identifying relevant provisions of Sierra Leone’s National Action Plan (SiLNAP) that could be integrated into Council Development Plans (CDPs). Stay tuned for more info on these workshops!
For more pictures from our monitoring workshop go to our flickr page!