Difference between revisions of "Gender Equality in Sierra Leone"

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(Progress Assessment of MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women)
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Millennium Development Goal #3 is divided into three sub-categories, each of them focusing on different areas: education, employment wage and political power.
Millennium Development Goal #3 is divided into three sub-categories, each of them focusing on different areas: education, employment wage and political power.
[[File:MDG Chart Sierra Leone.png||150px|thumb|right|MDG Tracking Index of Sierra Leone-2010]]
==== Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education ====
==== Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education ====

Revision as of 14:59, 20 February 2012

Flag of Sierra_Leone
Population (in Mil.) 6.04
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 3.79
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.94
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1
Fertility Rate 4.94
Estimated Earned Income (f/m)
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 2.1
Women in Parliament (in %) 12.4
Human Development Index 177/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 66/86
Gender Inequality Index 177/186
Gender Equity Index 135/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index /128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

The Constitution of Sierra Leone provides for equal rights for men and women, but the principle of non-discrimination does not apply in all areas. In February 2007, the government established a commission to review the Constitution and eliminate all discriminatory measures.

At present, women are subject to legal and social discrimination in day-to-day life. Their rights and status are contingent on traditional law and the ethnic group to which they belong. Sierra Leone was ravaged by civil war from 1991 to 2002. Both men and women suffered the consequences of the conflict, which created thousands of refugees and displaced persons. It is difficult to determine which problems concern women in particular and which affect human rights in general. Women and children were subjected to rape and sexual slavery during the war, and appear to have been its most affected victims.

Family Code

Despite the egalitarian Constitution of Sierra Leone, the Family Code is highly discriminatory to women. Under the law on Christian marriage, a father’s authorisation is required when the person marrying is under 21 years of age; in the father’s absence the mother can give authorisation. The consent of both parties is required for marriages conducted under customary law, but no minimum age is specified. The incidence of early marriage is extremely high in Sierra Leone: a 2004 United Nations report estimated that 47% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.

Polygamt is prohibited under Sierra Leone’s Penal Code and is punishable by eight years in prison, but it is authorised in customary marriages. The practice seems widespread in rural areas, but no statistics are available to confirm this.

The Constitution of Sierra Leone does not specify which parent is the head of the family, but custom generally grants this status to men. In principle, parental authority is shared by both parents, but tradition dictates that children belong to their father. Women’s inheritance rights depend on their ethnic group and the relevant traditional law. Some tribes grant women the right to inherit property. Other tribal systems consider the wife to be a possession of the deceased husband; thus, she becomes part of the inheritance. Widows are not entitled to inherit the land belonging to their household; it is automatically redistributed. Sierra Leone’s civil legislative system is also discriminatory. When a wife dies, her husband obtains all joint property; by contrast, if a husband dies, his wife can obtain only a portion of the couple’s property.

Physical Integrity

The physical integrity of women in Sierra Leone is not sufficiently protected. Violence against women, and domestic violence in particular, has increased in recent years. Parliament is currently debating a new law that would criminalise acts of violence committed within a couple. At present, the police and other authorities rarely intervene in family disputes, which are considered to be a private matter rather than a social issue. Rape is prohibited in Sierra Leone and is punishable by 14 years in prison. Rape was used as a weapon during the civil war and there were numerous victims, both male and female. It now appears to be declining in comparison to other forms of violence against women. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is legal in Sierra Leone and is widely practised across all sectors of society. The African news agency AFROL has estimated that between 80% and 90% of women in Sierra Leone have been subjected to FGM.

Sierra Leone does not appear to be a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Civil Liberties

Sierra Leone grants its female citizens certain civil liberties; for example, women do not require their husband’s consent to obtain a passport. In general, there are no reported legal restrictions to women’s freedom of movement orfreedom of dress. It is important to note, however, that women’s civil liberties were jeopardised severely during the war: large numbers of girls were kidnapped and forcibly held to serve as sexual slaves for the soldiers.

Ownership Rights

Women in Sierra Leone have very few ownership rights. Women constitute the largest group of agricultural labourers, but they have never had full access to land, which is governed by customary rules. For example, in the north and west of Sierra Leone, women can theoretically own plots of land, but in the south and east, they can access land only through their husbands or other male family members.

In addition, there are two main types of farmland ownership in Sierra Leone. Under the community system, land belongs to the community or government, and individuals wishing to use it must acquire permission from the local authority. In most cases, women can be given the right to use land only if they obtain their husbands’ consent. The customary system provides for private ownership, but the land belongs to the family and is most often administered by the male head of the household. The government has established a land reform commission to guarantee equal access to land for men and women.

Women have very limited access to property other than land. Under customary marriage rules, a married woman is not entitled to manage a couple’s property because she is considered to be one of her husband’s possessions. Women are considered as perpetual minors and are not free to make decisions without their husbands’ agreement.

The fact that women are not entitled to own land restricts their access to bank loans: financial institutions often require land as a guarantee. Several micro-credit programmes target women in particular, with the aim of helping them to acquire funds.


  • AFROL Gender Profile, Sierra Leone , http://www.afrol.com/Categories/Women/profiles/sierraleone_women.htm
  • CEDAW (2006), Considerations of reports submitted by states parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; combined initial, second, third, fourth and fifth periodic reports of States parties – Sierra Leone, CEDAW/C/SLE/1-5, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
  • CEDAW (2007), Réponses quex questions suscitées par l’examen du rapport unique: Sierra Leone, CEDAW/C/SLE/Q/5/Add. 1, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
  • HRW (2003), “We kill you if you cry”, Sexual violences in the Sierra Leone conflict, Human Rights Watch Report, http://hrw.org/reports/2003/sierraleone/
  • UN (2004), World Fertility Report, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. New York: UN (2004)
  • UN (2006), World Population Prospects, Population data base, United Nations Population division , New York: UN
  • US. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (2007), International Religious Freedom Report, Sierra Leone, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Africa for Women's Rights Campaign


Key facts

  • CEDAW: ratified in 1998
  • CEDAW Protocol: signed in 2000
  • Maputo Protocol: signed in 2003

The Campaign

On 8 March 2009 the "Africa for Women's Rights" Campaign was launched at the initiative of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in collaboration with fove non-governmental regional organisations: the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies(ACDHRS), Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). These organisations make up the Steering Committee responsible for the coordination of the Campaign.

The Campaign aims to put an end to discrimination and violence against women in Africa, calling on states to ratify international and regional instruments protecting women's rights, to repeal all discriminatory laws, to adopt laws protecting the rights of women and to take all necessary measures to wensure their effective implementation.

Country Focus: Sierra Leone

While Sierra Leone has ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) without reservations, it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the following violations of women’s rights in Sierra Leone: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women; unequal status in marriage, family, and inheritance; unequal access to education, employment, decision-making, and property; and lack of access to health services. Read more


  • Focal Point: FAWE
  • Recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, June 2007
  • CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report to the CEDAW Committee, May 2007

External Links

Case Studies

Progress Assessment of MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Millennium Development Goal #3 is divided into three sub-categories, each of them focusing on different areas: education, employment wage and political power.

MDG Tracking Index of Sierra Leone-2010

Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education

Female gross enrolment at primary level rose from 68% in 1990 to 107% in 2004[1]. The combined ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education was at 0.84 in 2008[2]. In 2004, it was at 1.01 in primary schooling and 0.78 for the secondary level. Thd massive increase in the attendance of girls in Sierra Leone-which was a war-torn country 10 years ago- is a result of the affirmative action of the government to allow every girl child to go to school. Primary education school fees for all children were abolished in 2001 and in 2003, full support was provided for all girls entering the Junior Secondary School in the Eastern and Northern Regions because these regions were recording low numbers in attendance[3].

Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector

The share of women in the non-agricultural employment sector is still low despite the fact that significant progress is being made to improve the situation."In 2001, the proportion of women in non-agricultural employment was 7.5 percent (MDG Report, 2005). There was significant increase to 23.2 percent in 2005 (World Bank, 2009)" [4]. Traditional barrier and customs remains still an obstacle to the economic empowerment of Sierra-Leonese women. Furthermore, datas show that the marital status of women have a correlation with their employment in the non-agricultural sector. Indeed, about 80% of Sierra Leone's married, divorced and widowed women were likelier to be employed in 2008. The percentage of employment of the unmarried ones in the non-agricultural sector was during the same year at 40%.

Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

15.5% of the seats in the National Parliament of Sierra Leone were held by women in 2007[5]. This percentage decreased to 13% the following year[6]. Equitable political representation of women remains still a challenge in Sierra-Leone. Sierra-Leone doesn't seem to follow the trend of post-conflicts african countries such as Liberia and Burundi which have a high representation of women in the decision-making offices.

Overall, MDGTrack Global Index for Sierra Leone is at 20% and the country is deemed as off track[7]


  1. UNDP Sierra Leone. MDGs in Sierra Leone. Goal 3
  2. UNDP. Sierra Leone.MDG Country Report 2010
  3. UNDP. Sierra Leone.MDG Country Report 2010
  4. MDG Report 2010. Page 27.
  5. MDG Track Monitor. World Map. Sierra Leone
  6. MDG Report 2010.27
  7. MDGTrack Global Index. Sierra-Leone

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