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Women Underutilized in Sierra Leone Politics

Sierra Leonean woman votes (Photo: Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission) .
BO, Sierra Leone — The coordinator of the U.N.-backed Gender Media Club in Sierra Leone, Willette James, says it’s imperative that the press give more coverage to women's issues if their lives are to improve, and their influence in politics is to increase.

James, who is also a lecturer in the department of mass communication at Fourah Bay College, added that U.N. Women supports the Gender Media Club in its efforts to promote women-related activities, especially those competing in November’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

She says the club backs women’s empowerment and supports the fight against gender-based violence that is common in both rural and urban communities.

James called for the media to create a platform for marketing women candidates by publishing articles, news items and profiles that will introduce them to voters. She noted the need for the media to offer preferential treatment to issues of importance to women, who she says are not as economically and educationally empowered as men, and tend to shy away from politics.

James encourages men to embrace women’s equal participation in politics and governance, saying it will likely encourage non-violence, political tolerance and a vibrant democracy.

She emphasized the importance of training for journalists, who she said are not experts on the problems faced by women.

In a related development, the Commissioner of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) in Sierra Leone, Rod Mac Johnson, agrees that women are under-utilized in Sierra Leone politics.

At a recent training workshop for journalists sponsored by the Gender Media Club, Johnson said he supports other ways of ensuring women’s participation in politics, including quotas guaranteeing a percentage of women representatives in parliament.