Women’s Rights Initiative
The Women's Rights Programme in Sierra Leone aims to enhance the application of gender laws, benefiting widows and teenage girls in selected communities. It focuses on legal rights related to inheritance, marriage, education, and protection from discrimination.
In Sierra Leone, strides have been made to uphold the rights of women and girls through the enactment of progressive gender laws. Key among these are the Gender Bills passed on June 14, 2007, which encompass the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Devolution of Estates Act. These laws collectively advance the rights of widows, allowing them to inherit property from deceased spouses, and protect teenage girls by legalising their right to inherit under customary law and prohibiting practices such as "wife inheritance."
Despite these advances, challenges remain, particularly in education. Until recently, pregnant girls were banned from mainstream education, a policy that undermined their educational rights and perpetuated negative stereotypes. This changed with the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio and Education Minister David Moinina Sengeh, who lifted the ban on March 30, 2020. Further reinforcing this shift, the revised Basic and Senior Secondary Education Act, passed on April 24, 2023, embraces inclusive education, ensuring that pregnant girls and parent learners, among others from marginalised groups, have full access to education.
To support these legal frameworks, the JNJ Foundation is mobilising resources and advocacy efforts. The foundation aims to work closely with government entities and community leaders to promote the full implementation of these laws. Specific actions include advocating for widow's rights at both the government and community levels, and emphasizing the educational rights of the girl child, ensuring that the advances in legislation translate into real-world impact. Through these targeted efforts, the programme seeks to create a more equitable society where the rights of all women and girls are respected and upheld.
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