Orange Day celebration demonstrates commitment to gender equality and ever-stronger democracy in Sierra Leone


Orange Day celebration demonstrates commitment to gender equality and ever-stronger democracy in Sierra Leone

The Orange Day celebration in Sierra Leone's Parliament, highlighted the commitment to gender equality and democracy, marked by significant support for women's rights and political participation.
Orange day celebration in SL

On 14 March 2024, the State Hall of Parliament in Sierra Leone was alive with the spirit of inspiration and celebration as the Sierra Leone Female Parliamentary Caucus, supported by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and other partners, hosted an inspiring Orange Day. This event was not just a celebration of women's rights and strength in Sierra Leone but also marked a significant step towards achieving gender equality within the nation's governance structures. 

Under the skilled leadership of Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the celebration brought together women MPs, other male politicians, and aspiring female leaders. Their presence, along with that of representatives from international embassies, highlighted the collective commitment to support women's rights in Sierra Leone. 

The Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, in her keynote speech, underscored the event's historic importance and called for louder women's voices in the national dialogue. The day also saw the joint inauguration of the caucus executive by leaders from various political backgrounds, symbolising a united approach to gender equality. 

International support from the UK, US, and EU embassies shows the global backing for Sierra Leone's path towards gender equality, human rights, and ever stronger democracy. Aligning with the Parliament of Sierra Leone's enhanced focus on transparency and public engagement, the celebration echoed the Parliament's commitment to openness through various initiatives, including the annual Parliamentary Open Day and the development of accessible digital tools. However, bridging the gap between MPs and their constituents remains a challenge, with limited public involvement in parliamentary processes and political participation. 

In this context, WFD's backing for the newly formed civil society organisations (CSOs) parliamentary network – ParlCSONet – emerges as a vital initiative. This network aims to foster collaboration between over 40 CSOs and the parliament, bringing citizens' perspectives into the legislative arena. 

A women’s caucus with a plan 

Hon. Neneh Lebbie, President of the Sierra Leone Female Parliamentary Caucus, launched the caucus’s annual plan during the event. The annual plan of the Female Parliamentary Caucus outlines vital objectives, strategies, and activities to advance women’s rights and empowerment in Sierra Leone. It serves as a roadmap for the caucus’s advocacy efforts and provides a framework for collaboration with government agencies, civil society organizations, and international partners to address critical issues affecting women and girls.  

During the celebration, Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Sahr Nyuma, publicly pledged his support for women and commended the Female MPs and donor partners for backing the event, emphasising its significance in showcasing women's accomplishments. He reiterated Parliament's dedication to fostering women's exclusivity and involvement, citing efforts to increase female MP participation in governance, backed by statistical data from the Sixth Parliament of Sierra Leone. Urging female MPs to unite in advancing women's agenda, he affirmed Parliament's commitment to women's empowerment. Similarly, Opposition Leader Hon. Abdul Kargbo echoed the imperative of eradicating gender-based violence, urging female MPs to advocate for legislation in this regard.  

 Following the recent enactment of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Act, 2022, WFD's programme in Sierra Leone is instrumental in supporting women, many in their first term, in their transition to elected roles. 

With over 300 Sierra Leoneans in attendance, the Orange Day celebration was not just a platform for dialogue but also a testament to the strides being made towards gender equality in Sierra Leone. As we move forward, let this event serve as a reminder of our shared journey towards empowering every woman and girl in Sierra Leone, ensuring their voices are heard and their potential is fully realized.