Gender Equality

The importance of gender equality and women's empowerment to development progress is underscored by its inclusion as one of the Millennium Development Goals. In fact, gender equality drives all the MDGs and is intimately linked and connected to goals to improve maternal and newborn health and reduce the spread of HIV.

The importance of gender equality and women's empowerment to development progress is underscored by its inclusion as one of the Millennium Development Goals. In fact, gender equality drives all the MDGs and is intimately linked and connected to goals to improve maternal and newborn health and reduce the spread of HIV.

UNFPA's gender framework incorporates four strategies that address critical factors behind inequalities and rights violations: girls' education, women's economic empowerment, women's political participation and balancing reproductive and productive roles.

UNFPA also brings gender issues to wider attention and promotes legal and policy reforms and gender-sensitive data collection. It works to end gender-based violence, including traditional practices that harm women, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting. UNFPA also raises awareness of women's strengths, vulnerabilities and needs in a variety of situations, including in humanitarian emergencies, climate change and migration. It recognises the rights, perspectives and influences of men and boys and seeks to involve them in promoting gender equality and improving reproductive health.

A strong emphasis on the human rights, including reproductive rights, of individual women and men underpins all of UNFPA's work. Promoting and protecting human rights requires considerable cultural fluency as UNFPA works in some of the most sensitive and intimate spheres of human existence, including sexuality, gender relations and population issues. Since 2002, UNFPA has emphasised the integration of culturally sensitive approaches into its programmes. In doing so, it has worked closely with communities and local agents of change, including religious leaders and faith-based organisations.

In Sierra Leone progress has been made in expanding opportunities for women and girls to promote gender equality and empowerment of women. To reflect the commitment of the Government in meeting the MDG3, legislative reforms in the following critical areas - as required by CEDAW – have been enacted: Domestic Violence Act 2007, Devolution of Estates Act 2007, Registration of Customary, Marriage and Divorce Act 2007, Child Rights Act 2007 and the Sexual Offenses Act 2012. A National Committee on Gender-Based Violence (NaC-GBV) has been established comprising of partner organizations working on the prevention and response to issues of gender-based violence across the country. The Government’s PRSP III “Agenda for Prosperity” (2013-2017) has a standalone pillar that focuses on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment with gender mainstreamed in all the other pillars. 

Nevertheless gender inequality and denial of women’s rights are still prevalent at all levels in Sierra Leonean society. Despite the significant strides, many women continue to suffer marginalization and discrimination, particularly in the areas of education, employment, political participation, and social justice. Issues of unequal opportunities for boys and girls continue to be exacerbated by factors such as early marriage for girls, teenage pregnancies and harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).   Gender Based Violence perpetrated against women and girls continues to be one of the most prevalent and pervasive problems in post-conflict Sierra Leone.

In Sierra Leone UNFPA works to ensure that programmes at the grass roots level are positioned within and supported by sustainable national level institutions, UNFPA works with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs – capacity building through financial and technical assistance. We work with local NGOs, CSOs and other development agencies ensuring multi-level coordination to help strengthen the implementation of existing legislation pertaining to gender equality and to remove discriminatory clauses that impinge upon the human rights of women and children from the constitution of Sierra Leone.  

Current activities also supported by UNFPA include community mobilisation/sensitisation and demand creation activities for family planning, reproductive health and fistula services. Awareness raising on the legislation covering sexual and gender based violence (Sexual Offences Act (2012) & Domestic Violence Act (2007), and support to access free legal counselling/representation and access to medical care for the victims and survivors of SGBV. Harmful traditional practices are also covered; raising awareness on both the potential short and longer term health consequences and human rights violations of FGM/C and the negative impact that early marriage and teenage pregnancy can have on the lives of girls and their families.