Catholic Entity in Sierra Leone Campaigning to Boost Women Numbers in Country’s Government

Members of the Yellow Ribbon campaign in Sierra Leone. Credit: Trócaire/Yellow Ribbon campaign

The overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire, is working through the “Yellow ribbon campaign”, an empowerment project that is aimed at boosting the representation of Sierra Leonean women in parliament and in the country’s local councils.

In Tuesday, March 8 report, Trócaire officials say that the campaign seeks to unite women in Sierra Leone to be a strong force that cannot be taken for granted in politics, a force that will initiate change.

“The Yellow Ribbon Campaign is growing in political influence with the women of Sierra Leone uniting and becoming a force for change that can no longer be ignored,” Trócaire leadership says in the report.

Made up of civil societies and women empowerment groups in the West African country, the campaign that Trócaire supports is the driving force behind a proposed government bill in Sierra Leone seeking to empower women politically.

Trócaire makes reference to the new gender equality and women’s empowerment bill under Sierra Leone’s ministry of gender and children’s affairs, which “is calling for 30 percent of parliamentary seats and cabinet positions to be held by women in the West African state.”


The bill also seeks to improve women’s access to finance, more positions in employment and to involve the government in expenditure towards improving gender equality.

The Secretary of Port Loko Women’s Network, a group advocating for women’s rights in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kargbo, confirmed her support for the bill saying that through the bill, women can be heard in decision making and therefore contribute to the development of the country.

“I want to work side-by-side with our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons to show them that we can also do it,” Ms. Kargbo has been quoted as saying. 

In the March 8 report, Trócaire program manager in Sierra Leone, Ellen Donnelly, says that the overseas development agency has been working for years to support female candidates in elections.

“In Trócaire, we have worked tirelessly with our civil society partner organizations to support the government in Sierra Leone to develop a women’s empowerment policy and to draft the Gender Equality Women’s Empowerment Bill,” Ms. Donnelly says.

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She adds, “The bill has currently passed the first stage in parliament but there are two more stages for it to go through before it is passed.”

Ms. Donnelly says that the aim of the agency is to ensure that the bill passes before 2023 elections in order to fully support female candidates who will be aspiring for political seats.

She says, “Through our local partners, we have also developed a manual which will guide female candidates through the election process.”

Besides supporting the bill, Trócaire also runs advocacy and awareness campaigns through radio among other media through which women and men are consulted on the feedback and recommendations concerning the Bill.

“With the help of our local partners, we engaged with rural women to ensure that they can become champions of the Bill and enable them to use their voice and influence to engage with parliamentarians on what the Bill means for them and why their representatives should vote for it,” Ms. Donnelly says.


She continues, “Women living in rural areas have been very keen to engage with the bill and to demand change for themselves and their local communities.”

Ms. Donnelly says that despite the Yellow Ribbon Campaign gaining huge success, many challenging questions are asked concerning the campaign, which she says need to be addressed to avoid harmful gender norms.

“We often get questions from journalists asking whose seats these women are going to take as men have retained these seats for years, and there’s often a fear that women will not be able (to take) these positions. Our feedback is always that every election cycle is a new cycle and there is no such thing as a man’s seat,” she says.

She adds that one is only elected for a period of time in Sierra Leone and that no woman is taking anyone’s position. She says that women in the country represent 52 percent of the population and have a right to be represented well in both national and local bodies.

The Trócaire official urges women to contest for political seats saying, “We’re confident to say that in the last election we trained and supported lots of women who were very capable and the ones who were successful, their constituents are very happy.”

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Ms. Donnelly makes reference to the women who are already occupying parliamentary seats and says that they are role models and need to be emulated by other women. She further says that the leaders have disproved the notion that women cannot lead.

Making reference to the Bill, she says, “We hope over time this law, if enacted, will lead to clear change and positive outcomes for women. One thing is for sure, the women of Sierra Leone are a political force that can no longer be ignored.”

Trócaire reports that in Sierra Leone, with a population of almost eight million people, just 19 percent of local politicians are women, with only 13 percent at national level.