Sierra Leone introduces job quota for women

The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act was signed into law on Thursday by President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone.

The law intends to combat gender inequality and, in particular, the insecure employment of women in the nation of West Africa.

It establishes a 30% quota of positions that must be held by women in both the public and commercial sectors. To avoid abusing the spirit of the reform by exploiting low-level employees, the quota also applies to management positions.

The law also promises equal pay for equal work to women and 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. The maximum fine for employers who break the law is 50,000 leones ($2,600, €2,400) per offense.

“We, men, have yet to see or acknowledge women’s rightful position fully, and this law will give us tools to correct that.

“We must end the impunity or violence against women in elections and public life and punish all persons and entities found guilty of such violence,” Bio said in his speech.

Women are also underrepresented in politics, with only 18 seats in the 146-seat parliament being held by women and with only four women present in Bio’s 32-member cabinet.

READ ALSO:SIERRA LEONE: Drop intention to contest outcome of run-off, Bio tells Kamara

The new quota will also apply to the parliament.

“Women who wish to serve in public office and their supporters must not be undermined, belittled, intimated or humiliated,” the president further noted.

“It’s not going to be easy because that space has been occupied by men for a very long time, we must monitor electoral processes to ensure election fairness and transparency.”

Sierra Leone has one of the lowest levels of gender equality in the world. It ranked 182nd out of 189 countries according to the UN’s 2020 Gender Development Index.

Human Rights Watch has described the situation in Sierra Leone as one of systematic discrimination against women, with many being fired if they become pregnant.

“We are happy today as our dream for an improved political, social and economic empowerment of women and girls in Sierra Leone has started,” Sally Ndimawa Adams, who heads the Sierra Leone Women’s Forum, said.

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