Salone News

50/50 Voter Education

19 July 2007 at 15:32 | 175 views

The 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone, a non-partisan
campaign for more women in politics and public life
through training and advocacy, has succeeded in
placing women’s representation on the political agenda
in Sierra Leone.

The aim of these countrywide civic and voter education
workshops is to increase the number of women,
especially those from the grass roots, who will vote
during the 2007 presidential and parliamentary
elections. It is hoped that the training, which will
use facilitators from NEC, will help to reduce the
number of void votes by women. The organization will
also sensitize women about their right to through
radio and TV stations throughout the country in the
various local languages.

The organization is aware that cultural and religious
beliefs coupled with the lack of sensitization and
illiteracy rates in most parts of the country that do
not have access to the media or other forms of
information regarding elections have prevented most
Sierra Leonean women from exercising their voting
rights during elections.

During a recently completed baseline survey in Koinadugu and Kailahun districts in northern and eastern Sierra Leone, some women attested that they only voted in past elections because they were told to do so by their husbands or local authorities. Others did not even vote as they thought their husbands who were heads of their families could vote on their behalf.

Majority of the women are still not politically,
socially and economically equipped for political
participation. Although a series of training have been
conducted and a Women’s manifesto created and
reviewed, there is a need for more training and
awareness-raising of women in breaking the barriers
that militate against them participating and making
informed choices during elections.

Empowering Women for Participation in the election
through voter education is definitely necessary as
overcoming social, systemic and attitudinal obstacles
and creating an equal role for women in public life
are long-term challenges that the group is set up to
address.

The organization will educate women countrywide on
their voting rights to create awareness that voting is
not only meant for men. Since increasing the number of
women voters will reflect their opinions in elections
results, it matches the 50/50 group’s overall
objective of increasing female participation in
elective politics.

Output of these will be measured through follow-up
work that will be conducted with NEC to ascertain
whether there is an increase in the number of local
women who voted during the elections this year
compared to previous elections. Post elections
assessment will also be conducted with NEC on the void
voting slips to ascertain the percentage of void slips
that were completed by women as compared to previous
years.

The 50/50 Group will be carrying out these workshops
in all of its 12 operational districts in the country.
The organization is grateful to the African Women’s
Development Fund (AWDF) for funding this project.

Source: 50/50.

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