50/50 schools MPs
The 50/50 Group in Sierra Leone past Monday trained new female parliamentarians from both the ruling APC and the opposition SLPP. The training was held in the British Council Seminar room and was funded by ENCISS. The training also attracted four male MPs and past presidents of 50/50 groups.
The founder and first president of the 50/50 Group in Sierra Leone, Dr. Nemata Majeks-Walker, who was one of the facilitators of the training, informed that 50-50 Group is a non-partisan campaign for more women in politics and public offices through training and advocacy.
She revealed that over the years, the group has succeeded in placing women’s representatives on the political arena in Sierra Leone.
Addressing a press conference held prior to the workshop, the newly- elected president of the group, Dr. Aisha Fofana Ibrahim, who is also Director for Gender Research and Development in Fourah Bay College (FBC ), told media practitioners that the 50-50 Group was training women MPs because women generally face more challenges than men in settling down in parliament.
She said women struggle to get into parliament but that the struggle doesn’t end there, noting that some are harassed, threatened and mocked. “It could be difficult to get people to take women MPs seriously,” she noted.
The new 50-50 president stated that some women MPs have been complaining that their male colleagues make sexually offensive remarks against them in parliament.
The female MPs, she said, are wondering how they can persuade parliament to address the rapes suffered by women in their constituencies. “If men do not take women politicians seriously, they cannot do their jobs well. It is a real problem,” said the new president of the group.
Dr. Aisha Fofana Ibrahim informed that the training was designed to provide women with skills for meaningful participation in parliament.
The training covered various issues including the three arms of government, a guide on how parliament works, how bills are passed, how offices, officers and committees work in parliament, parliamentary responsibilities, privileges and immunities, the international experience in cross party caucuses in parliament, especially those of marginalized communities and how cross party parliamentary for a and caucuses work in other countries.
The participants dramatized parliamentary proceedings with Hon. Elizabeth Alpha Lavalie, a former SLPP parliamentarian for 20 years serving as the Speaker. The debate on the motion ‘The need for MPs to have their own offices in parliament and in their respective constituencies with staff and researchers to help them execute their parliamentary functions.
The motion was presented by Hon. Veronica Kadi Sesay of the SLPP who advanced various reasons as to why MPs should need offices and staff to carry out their parliamentary work but Hon. Helen Kuyembeh of the constituency 075 in the Bo district vehemently opposed the motion on the grounds that the government has other various pressing issues to address, citing education, health and infrastructure.
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