Postcard from Freetown: “It is Time for Men to Make the Sacrifices”

Yesterday I posted on Twitter – “it is time the men start sacrificing for women” and to my surprise I had a couple of mentions and retweets that appeared interesting and funny. What surprised me the most was the way some of my followers interpreted that tweet to the “love factor.” I must confess as I wrote down that tweet, love was the motive, as in men making sacrifices to love and respect their women more. As I review it further I decided to look at it from another vantage point.

I decided to look at the present day Sierra Leone and the women struggle that is presently going on. Let me categorically state that women in Sierra Leone are voiceless; they have neither public life nor a political one. This I see as a tragedy considering I am a self proclaim advocate for the emancipation and rights of women in all spheres of societal life. I believe women should compete for resources and jobs with men and the merit factor looked at instead of gender based on misconstrued cultural norms and rhetorics that we all are familiar of. It is time that we men stand with our women in fighting this battle of equal opportunities in all aspect of our socio-economic life. Sierra Leonean men need to understand that this is crucial for our country’s future as it is to our women.

In my five months of being in Freetown, I have read and seen women groups robustly pushing Government to establish and pass laws to increase the representation of women in public life. Sierra Leone is a developing country but poverty is rife. For a country where male dominance is widespread and entrenched, unsurprisingly, the inequalities women face is severe. Life expectancy for women in Sierra Leone is 40 years. Women face poor access to education, health facilities and discrimination of all kind and even in the job market. Men still beat women in this country, sexual harassment as well as rape accounts for some of the problems women face. It is a shameful omen to see men raising their hands on women in the 21st century and when it is reported to the police the normal stupid norm is: “it is a family matter, go home and settle it”

In 2007, the Government passed a law to protect the rights of women. The law covered areas of domestic violence, registration of customary marriage and divorce and devolution of estates. Also according to what I have heard from some quarters, the Parliament will pass a law to force politicians to increase the opportunities for women politically. I must say that these are steps in the right direction but I am more skeptical as we Africans have issues with implementations of the law and policies. So I am patiently waiting to see the reality of these policies affecting the women cause progressively.

The population of women surge towards the 51% and if a minimum of 30% quota the women rights groups are pushing for is given, there will be more opportunities for women in the country in all sectors of the economy. But then again which women will benefit more? With the high level of illiteracy among women one wonder if this quota is in line with priorities for the rural women.

The fact is we still have anti-female men among us and the irony is we have anti-men campaigners among women also. Some goes as feminist and rally under the banner of feminism portraying men as the problem or even the “enemy”, and this present another problem of resistance for the women’s cause. I believe if we can get every “Salone Pikin” to rally around each other and make the country a priority and shred away from all these elements that will create tension, progress is not very far.

This mentality that says a woman’s job is to raise kids and that is what they do best is so backwards, “it cracks my spine in disgust.” For those who are clamouring for things to work that way please wake up and smell the coffee. History has clearly shown us that women have contributed more to our society than just bringing up children. Mama Yoko during the colonial rule in the late 19th century had power and influence to challenge military regimes and fought for peace. At the height of the civil war, women organized, what was believed to be the largest march across Sierra Leone, calling for peace. They succeeded. They rebels and Government listened. These women brave action also resulted in the historic signing of the 1999 Lomé Peace Accord. Till this present day, peace and stability has visited the country.

I believe the role of women in all aspect of the Sierra Leonean life is important if development is to take place. Socio-economic development is needed in this country and we need the women to pioneer this agenda. Better than not, the role of advocacy women play in society cannot be overlooked. Sierra Leone women and girls have the right to fight for equal rights and opportunities and it is now for us men to make that sacrifice and make sure that it becomes a living reality for our women and stop this melodramatic and rhetoric mis-education that religion and tradition has feed us with and see the bigger picture. Behind every successful nation there is unity and equality between men and women – take Rwanda for example. So I urge all Sierra Leoneans and the rest of Africa to join in this battle for gender equality across Africa with the bigger picture in mind.

@DanteBello on Twitter

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