NDI has honored the 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone with the 2007 Madeleine K. Albright Award. Founded in 2000 to promote greater participation of women in politics, the 50/50 Group has grown from a handful of women meeting in borrowed space in Freetown to a nationally recognized organization actively engaged in building a new post-war Sierra Leone. Its efforts in advance of the country’s 2002 elections contributed to a dramatic increase in opportunities for women to run as candidates and play more meaningful roles in their political parties. The organization has influenced the country’s legislative agenda, built a network of talented women to run for office, and played a key role in mobilizing women in August’s national elections.
The 50/50 Group seeks to live up to its name by ensuring an equal share of power between men and women in the country’s traditionally male-dominated political system. The Group was established to change public perception of women in politics, remove barriers to women’s political participation, and equip the next generation of women candidates with the tools necessary to achieve electoral success.
Facing its first electoral test during general polls in 2002, the Group mobilized intensive leadership and campaign training; organized a cadre of experienced trainers across the country and establishing local branches in all of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts. During the training period, women candidates concluded that absent a clear and comprehensive platform on women’s issues, they would continue to be marginalized from the political process. The 50/50 Group and women candidates subsequently produced and distributed the “Sierra Leone Women’s Manifesto,” which underscored the importance of meeting the needs of women in all sectors of development and established a strong foundation upon which to set priorities for a future legislative agenda.
Due in part to the efforts of the 50/50 Group, opportunities for women’s political participation increased dramatically during the 2002 election period with all competing parties placing women on their electoral lists. Campaign workshops organized by NDI and the 50/50 Group acquainted women who aspired to elective office with the practical skills and tools to run effective, issue-based campaigns, while a sustained media campaign conducted by the 50/50 Group successfully increased popular awareness of women candidates. Ultimately, 18 women were elected to parliament, three times the number elected in 1996, and they went on to actively participate in the country’s post-war government. During subsequent local polls in 2004, scores of 50/50 Group-trained women were elected to public office in their communities.
Having become a household name through its prominent electoral activities, the 50/50 Group capitalizes on the period between elections to further its mission especially the long-term goal of changing traditional prejudices and stereotypes that have marginalized women in the past. Between elections, the Group promotes its objectives through its branches around the country. A year-around radio talk show educates the general public on leadership, women’s issues and local government, and seeks to change perceptions of women in politics through regular interviews with successful women. These efforts have helped build a network of talented women ready to assume leadership roles in politics and civic life.
Established in 2005, the Madeleine K. Albright Award builds on the Win with Women Global Initiative, which promotes strategies for increasing women's political leadership worldwide. One organization is selected annually from a competitive pool of applicants to receive $25,000 to support their initiative that advances women's participation in civic or political life. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee based on the strength of their proposals to further women's political participation. Past recipients include the Women’s Political Caucus of Indonesia and the Mostar Women Citizens' Initiative of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
- Remarks of Dr. Nemata Eshun-Baiden upon accepting the Madeleine K. Albright Award»
- Remarks of Ms. Harriett Turay upon accepting the Madeleine K. Albright Award»
- Remarks of The Hon. Abator Thomas upon accepting the Madeleine K. Albright Award»
Published on Sept. 6, 2007