Sierra Leone: UN raises awareness of laws to curb violence against women

School girls in Sierra Leone

27 March 2008 – Two United Nations agencies have joined forces with a local non-governmental organization (NGO) in Sierra Leone to heighten awareness of three new gender laws, passed by the West African nation’s Parliament, in a bid to reduce the level of violence and abuse against women.

The UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), together with the Grassroots Empowerment for Self Reliance (GEMS), are running a three-day workshop targeting over 150 men and women in three communities in the capital Freetown.

“I will not change you but will tell you how to change your attitude in your community,” said Orla Fagan of UNIFEM. “My message is not only to the women, but also to all men so that you may respect the rights of women, especially your partners.”

She also noted that women perform the bulk of the housework, yet do not have the equal right as men to inherit property.

“Sierra Leoneans are silent about gender violence and human rights abuse against women, and the workshop aims at encouraging particularly women to speak out against ill-treatment meted on them by men,” GEMS Programme Coordinator Catherine Greywood told participants.

In a related development, the 12th high-level gathering of the heads of UN peace missions in West Africa will be held tomorrow at UNIOSIL Headquarters in Freetown.

Chaired by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa (UNOWA) Lamine Cissé, the meeting will be attended by the Special Representatives of the region: Ellen Margrethe Løj of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); Y.R. Choi of the UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and Gebremedhin Hagoss, UNIOSIL Officer-In-Charge.

The heads of the missions will address the meeting regarding the security situation and the latest political developments.


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