By Umaru Fofana
FREETOWN – Sierra Leone’s president has signed into law a bill guaranteeing women at least 30% of positions in government and the private sector, with equal pay – a policy hailed as a watershed moment for gender equality in the African country of 8 million.
Known as the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act, the law states that women must occupy at least 30% of elected and appointed positions in government and 30% of decision-making roles in public and private bodies.
Currently, only 12% of parliamentarians and 17% of cabinet ministers are women.
“The future of Sierra Leone is female”, said President Julius Maada Bio before signing the bill on Thursday.
“We must do all it takes to facilitate the timely, full and unconditional inclusion of women in our national life, governance, and development,” he added. “Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and countries.”
The bill also extends maternity leave from 12 weeks to 14 weeks.
Haja Alimatu Abdullah, president of a Sierra Leonean gender parity group called 50/50, called the bill “a watershed moment for us women in this country”.
Several other African countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, have also instated quotas guaranteeing women 30% or more seats in parliament.