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NEWS : Local News  

AAI-SL Holds Dialogue Forum for Policy Makers and Civil Society in Sierra Leone
By Bampia J Bundu
Nov 27, 2008, 17:06
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Action Aid International-Sierra Leone (AAISL) on Wednesday 26th November 2008 held a dialogue forum for policy makers and civil society organizations at the Miatta Conference Hall, Youyi Building in Freetown on the theme Making Linkages Between Poverty, Rights and Violence against Women: Government Perspective and Action.

VP Sam Sumana Delivering the keynote adderss at the forum

In his opening address, the Chairman, Board of Directors Action Aid International-Sierra Leone, Dr. Julius Spencer noted that he felt very proud of Sierra Leoneans for the stance they have taken in pushing the rights of women forward, though he said more is still needed to be done in order to elevate their status in the country.

Action Aid Country Director, Mr. Tennyson Williams

He commended ActionAid for organizing such a wonderful forum where local people were given the chance to ask government officials questions. In a rhetorical question, he asked how many men understand that they should not beat their wives. "How long will men continue to subject to such a barbaric activity," he questioned. He encouraged the general public to try and understand the concept of human rights. He also encouraged government Ministers and top functionaries to deliver meaningful statements that would answer questions raised by the audience.

Gender Minister Haja Musu Kandeh delivering her statement

Giving the overview of the forum, the AAI-SL Country Director, Mr. Tennyson Williams noted that in previous years, there had been a strategic shift from service delivery to right based work, and that was as a result of his organizations realization of the need to ensure rights in securing and claiming resources and power to sustain human dignity and development. "This strategic shift is meant to influence policies and practices that ensure an equitable and just society, he disclosed. He however, stated that Action Aid recognizes the fact that in order to eradicate poverty, citizens should have the capacity to be fully engaged in the governance of their state. This he said requires determined efforts in partnership or networking to facilitate conditions that would uphold such rights and responsibilities.

Members of the high table

"It is hoped that this approach will help consolidate democracy as a post conflict peace building strategy," he iterated. Mr. Williams disclosed that this year marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, being a historical moment in recognition of works done in the past six decades to secure the conventions and treaties that make up the human rights frame work.

He used the opportunity to disclose that women advocacy has brought about pioneering change in areas such as education health, law and political participation, including interpretations of the human rights frame work itself.

He said the global framework to realize womens rights has been spelled out in the conventions (CEDAW) and in documents from other UN processes such as the Vienna Human Rights Declaration, the Cairo Programme of Action, the Beijing Platform for Action, the millennium Development Goals and the World Summit.

He commended the vice president for leaving his busy schedules to comment on the violation of women. He concluded by calling on participants to ensure that they ask relevant questions in order for them to get appropriate answers.

The Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Childrens Affairs, Haja Musu Kandeh pointed out that violence against women is a major human rights issue as proven by research that poverty is one of the root causes of the violation of womens rights. She revealed that due to poverty, many women suffer a lot as their rights are misused especially by their husbands, bosses and the society.

"Improving the capacity of women encourages them to know their rights and live well in society," she said. Haja Kandeh called on ActionAid to partner with her ministry in order to fight against violence against women in society.

Delivering the keynote address, and officially opening the forum, the Hon. Vice President, Chief Samuel Sam-Samuna commended ActionAid International for inviting him to deliver a statement and answer to some questions from participants. He described ActionAid as one of the NGOs that has contributed immensely to the development of the country. He said in showing love and commitment to citizens of this country, President Ernest Koroma has created an open government initiative so that the need of the people can be heard and their problems discussed.

The VP described women as important people in Sierra Leone as they comprise 52% of the countrys population. He called on ministers of government to ensure that they commit themselves in pushing the rights and values of women so that they can know their right as citizens. He assured that his government is committed to improving the rights and values of women, and called on ActionAid to continue advocating for their rights. He also called on participants to help popularize the issue of womens right so that the public would better understand.

Statements were made by other government Ministers, Civil Society organization representatives, Human Rights Commission, Womens Forum and female lawyers.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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