Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, with around 70 per cent of people living below the poverty line, and a quarter in extreme poverty.
During the 11 year civil war a quarter of a million women experienced sexual violence. Although the war ended in 2002, the trauma that hundreds of thousands of women experienced hasn’t been addressed.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) and early and forced marriage are widely practised. Nearly all women in Sierra Leone will suffer sexual or domestic violence in their lifetime. And most will not see justice.
The recent Ebola outbreak has contributed to further increases in discrimination, violence and poverty for women and girls.
- 94 per cent of displaced households reported sexual assault during the civil war (Physicians for Human Rights 2002).
- 88 per cent of women have undergone FGM (UNICEF 2013).
- Women hold just 12 per cent of seats in national parliaments (World Bank Data).
- Only 6 per cent of cases of violence against women reported in the first eight months of 2013 resulted in a conviction.
Dealing with the Ebola crisis
Since March 2014, Sierra Leone has faced one of the deadliest outbreaks of Ebola in history, with more than 13,500 cases, and almost 4,000 deaths.
Women’s traditional role as caregivers to the young, sick and elderly has put a huge burden on them and increased their risk of exposure. Discrimination and violence has also increased.
Womankind’s three partners – Graceland Sierra Leone, Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES), and Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP) – have been:
- Raising awareness about how to prevent the virus
- Providing counselling to women affected by the disease
- Coordinating and sharing information with authorities to make sure they take women and girls’ needs into account when responding to the virus.
Helping women to help themselves
Despite a government programme to rebuild Sierra Leone after the war, women have largely been left to fend for themselves. Without state help, it’s women’s rights organisations like our partner Graceland Sierra Leone helping women rebuild their lives.
- Supporting women survivors of violence and sexual abuse to access essential services and counselling, and get justice
- Working in four districts to help 400 women become economically independent
- Helping rural women to set up women-only cooperatives, producing staple crops to eat and sell.
“Before I used to go to my family to ask for help to pay the school fees. But now I can afford them myself.” Mata, who has her own business thanks to a loan from Graceland
Graceland Sierra Leone (GSL)
Graceland Sierra Leone is a non-governmental organisation that provides psychosocial care and support services to traumatised and sexually exploited women ...
Supporting women to understand their rights
Sierra Leone has come a long way since the war, rebuilding its infrastructure, economy and society. Yet women’s traumatic experiences during the conflict go largely ignored.
Attempts to address women’s rights have been made through legislation. But women are still discriminated against and experience high levels of violence – particularly sexual assault.
We are working with our local partner WAVES on:
- Increasing women’s awareness of the laws and services that protect their rights
- Organising community consultations to address issues that matter to women
- Training women about the local court system works so they can use if effectively, particularly around violence against women, marriage, divorce, child development and women’s involvement in decision-making
- Improving the justice system in communities
- Supporting women to earn their own livelihoods and forming village saving and lending associations
- Setting up groups of community members to promote safe schools for girls.
“Before WAVES’ intervention in my Section, there was a high level of violence against women. But with awareness of the different national and international instruments on women and children’s rights there has been a decline in cases reported to me, and they’re now minor ones. Thanks to WAVES for your timely intervention in our chiefdom.” Chieft Mandewa
Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES)
WAVES was established to address some of the huge gaps in the provision of justice and social services for women ...
Supporting women to tackle violence
Although the 1991 Sierra Leone constitution promises equal protection for women, it doesn’t cover marriage, divorce, burial and property.
Rural women in particular have little protection under the law. Customary laws, which are largely unwritten and often discriminate against women, are common in rural communities.
With Womankind’s support, our partner WPJP is:
- Helping introduce community laws on violence against women and abolish practices which discriminate against women
- Supporting women to earn their own living
- Creating safe spaces for women, women’s groups, microcredit groups, and school clubs to discuss and address violence
- Broadcasting radio programmes and running community campaigns on women’s rights.
“I don’t think I could have survived without the help of WPJP because I had no money to look after my children. But now I have my own money which I control. Peace in my life is an important thing.”Fanta, who WPJP supported to leave her violent husband
Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace (WPJP)
WPJP's vision is a Sierra Leone where women’s human rights, economic security and political participation are guaranteed at all levels. ...
Our impact in Sierra Leone
Thanks to our partnerships in Sierra Leone:
- 1,500 pupils, teachers and community members have learned more about women’s rights.
- 1,140 people have learned how to stop Ebola spreading.
- 928 women and men have had counselling for trauma.
- 1,080 female survivors of violence have had support to seek justice.
- 30 community members have been trained as paralegals to help women.
- One community has elected its first ever female village chief.
Find out more about our impact
Help us do more
£38 will pay to train one woman in farming techniques, so she can make a living.
£66 will support one woman with medical treatment, accommodation, food and clothing when she’s escaping abuse.
£79 will help us organise a radio discussion raising awareness of women’s rights.