Increasing Women’s Political Participation
Women make up 52 percent of Sierra Leoneans, yet occupy less than 20 percent of elected positions. Before the November polls, 13 percent of the members of parliament were women and women held 19 percent of local councilor seats. Following the election, women lost one seat in parliament and gained two seats at the local level. While the number of women elected overall remained static, there were important achievements in terms of women’s increased access to key political leadership positions. For the first time, a woman was elected mayor, council chairperson and minority leader in parliament.
Ahead of the elections, NDI supported women candidates for parliament and local council by working with major parties to assess their current policies and openness toward women as party leaders and candidates. The Institute helped parties find ways to do more to encourage women’s participation. NDI has made recommendations to all 10 registered political parties to improve their practices for promoting women candidates, such as reducing or waiving nomination fees for women. These recommendations were adopted by several parties, including the main opposition SLPP.
In 2012, NDI trained 151 potential women candidates on how to best to advocate for their party’s nomination. After the training, NDI provided ongoing advice and support to the women throughout their campaigns and produced simple campaign flyers for nearly 300 women candidates across the country from all political parties. NDI also held trainings for approximately 300 women candidates running for local council and parliament. During the sessions, women learned about managing their campaigns, targeting voters and delivering strong messages. Ten of the 15 newly elected members of parliament and 74 of the 87 women local councilors, as well as both the new mayor of Makeni and chairperson of Bonthe, participated in the program.
Before 2008 local government elections, the Institute worked to boost women’s skills and participation in the political process. NDI trained more than 95 percent of the women candidates contesting those elections, conducted town hall meetings focused on the value of women’s participation in politics, held forums with women candidates and worked with local groups to carry out an intensive media campaign on women’s rights. After the 2008 local elections, NDI trained elected women councilors on their new roles and responsibilities; working with community members; and skills including budget analysis, leadership, negotiation and public speaking so women councilors – including some who were illiterate – would be better prepared to serve their communities.
Supporting Election Processes
For the 2012 general elections, NDI trained 143 party
pollwatcher trainers on the principles of observing elections, reporting and holding training sessions for other party agents. Those 143 master trainers ultimately trained more than 40,000 party agents. With NDI’s assistance, both the APC and the SLPP deployed party agents in all polling stations in the country.
Initially, SLPP leadership described the 2012 election process as flawed and refused to accept the outcome, but it ultimately conceded. The reports from trained party agents across the country may have contributed to this acceptance, in addition to the intervention and mediation of party leaders and a coalition of Sierra Leonean religious groups.
Promoting Peaceful Youth Participation in Elections
To promote peaceful youth participation in elections, NDI assisted the All Political Party Youth Association (APPYA) – a group of youth wing leaders from the 10 registered parties in Sierra Leone – to organize community peace forums for young people in conflict-prone areas of the country. The forums brought together approximately 800 youth from all 10 political parties to denounce violence throughout the election cycle. NDI later helped APPYA organize three postelection roundtable discussions among party youth and leadership to assess the role of young people in the elections and explore the opportunities for continuing to engage them in the political process after the polls. The Institute also helped the group strengthen its understanding of areas related to institutional management, including communication, financial management, strategic planning and leadership.
Ahead of the elections, NDI facilitated a peer-to-peer exchange between APPYA and the Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF), a Kenyan youth organization. The visit was an opportunity for the two groups to share their experiences engaging young people in elections and conflict mitigation. APPYA and IPYF met with representatives from a range of organizations to prepare for the elections, promote better understanding of the electoral process in Sierra Leone and to share youth priorities for elections.
Strengthening the Legislature
The Institute coordinated a new member orientation for members of parliament elected to their first term in the 2007 elections — 80 percent of the legislature. After the orientation, NDI held follow-up trainings on collecting information, legislating, managing the budget process and conducting oversight. NDI also organized public meetings in seven districts for citizens to discuss a range of issues related to land tenure reform – a pressing issue in the country – with their elected representatives.
NDI's program in Sierra Leone concluded in March 2013. Past funding has come from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Gemima Barlow, senior program manager