MMW Summer/Fall 2023 News

Florence Sesay, executive director of Media Matters for Women in Sierra Leone, is pictured on local television in Sierra Leone while training women as peace ambassadors. More than 150 women attended the training then took MMW-produced peacemaking podcasts into rural communities to stem violence before and after national elections.

Success! More women elected to public office

By Executive Director Florence Sesay

Media Matters for Women played a key role in the national elections in June. Many partners supported our training of “peace ambassadors” who took the message of peacebuilding and relationship-building into rural communities to offset violence.

We did this via our own podcasts shared by peace ambassadors in the communities where we’ve long worked. We also expanded into three additional districts – doubling the size of our in-person reach. Read about how MMW helped to limit election-related violence in Senior Journalist Alinah O. Kallon’s article, shared in this newsletter.

The Proportional Representation Elections saw an historic number of women elected to public offices: Women now hold 28 percent of the elected seats in Parliament, up from 14.5 percent.

Even though the election results are controversial, with incumbent President Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) claiming victory amidst widespread accusations of lack of transparency, women can celebrate their gains at the ballot box.

This victory is the result of hard work by female activists and organizations, supported by MMW activism, to encourage more women to seek public office based on the new Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Act. This law calls for a 30 percent quota for female candidates with the political parties, and 30 percent representation in elected and appointed offices.

An important next step is to help these newly elected women navigate their new roles in Parliament to ensure they’re effective policymakers. (Such training also would benefit many male officeholders.) We also need to work to encourage more women to run for local councils and other grassroots positions.

The GEWE law also calls for 30 percent female representation in the private sector. For example, we see more women being hired and trained to work in construction companies. These changes are important for women’s economic empowerment. Providing employment opportunities helps women to support their families.

While celebrating these victories, Freetown and its environs have remained calm despite concerns from international partners about election transparency. The political situation is still unstable with continued political tensions. The main opposition candidate, Samura Kamara, and his party, the All People’s Congress (APC), has thus far boycotted all participation in local councils, Parliament, and mayoral and chairmanship roles, bringing the government to a standstill.

These tensions are fueled by continued dissatisfaction with the crippling economic crisis, high youth unemployment and escalating fuel, grocery and other costs.

About Florence

MMW-SL Executive Director Florence Sesay is a highly respected and experienced journalist and broadcaster. She has received numerous prestigious awards, including a Vital Voices Global Leadership Fellowship and the 2021 B-Peace International Mentors Award. She’s a member of the UN Spotlight Initiative Civil Society-Regional Reference Group and a longtime advocate for gender equality and women’s health.

Residents of a rural Sierra Leone town after listening and discussing an MMW podcast.

Thank you to our many peace-building project supporters

Thanks to generous support from the United Nations PeaceBuilding Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, UN Women, Urgent Action Fund-Africa and World Vision, MMW facilitators were able to train more than 150 women as peace ambassadors this year. These women then took active roles in their rural communities to promote peace during and after the national elections in June. 

Our peace ambassadors played MMW-produced podcasts and led discussions with community members afterward. Focusing on hot-spot areas, many of the peace ambassadors spoke with youth to reduce the likelihood of politically generated violence.

Our tactics to date have succeeded. Violence largely has been mitigated. Thank you to all of the funders and our wonderful peace ambassadors for promoting a peaceful election process. 

MMW promotes peace during recent elections

By Alinah Kallon, Senior MMW Journalist

Media Matters for Women (MMW) played an important leadership role in an elections project designed to promote peace leading up to and following the presidential and parliamentary elections that were held June 24. These peacebuilding efforts helped to ease political tensions and avoid violence. 

Facilitators engaged women in discussing and promoting peace in seven districts: Karene, Pujehun, Bombali, Kono, Western Rural, Western Urban and Kenema.

The project organizers recruited more than 150 female leaders as peace ambassadors. They were trained by MMW leaders before taking MMW-produced peacebuilding podcasts into rural communities. After sharing a podcast, the women engaged community members – women, men and young people – in dialogue. MMW focused on potential hot spots in each district.

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