By State House Communications Unit
Mrs. Naasu Fofanah, Gender Specialist in the Office of the President in the picture with a cross section of women in the security sector
Freetown: Women in Security Sector-Sierra Leone (WISS-SL), the umbrella body for women serving in the security sector, have registered their gratitude and appreciation to His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for the appointment of Mrs. Naasu Fofanah as Gender Specialist in the Office of the President to advice the office of the President on gender equality and the advancement of women in Sierra Leone.
Led by Brigadier Kestoria Kabia of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the WISS-SL delegation comprising approximately 55 women last Thursday 26th July stormed State House where they expressed gratitude to the government of President Koroma for making women’s issues a priority.
Speaking during the meeting held with a cross-section of female security personnel in the Credentials Hall at State House, Brigadier Kabia said they gathered at State House to thank President Koroma for the appointment of a woman to head a Gender Unit in His office, and also to extol him for considering women’s participation in decision making, a global and national priority.
She said the appointment of a gender specialist shows how much confidence and respect the Commander-In-Chief of the RSLAF have for Sierra Leonean women, adding that this is the first time an elected President has taken such laudable venture.
“It shows that he is prepared to move us to a higher level if we are ready to move on as women. The President is ready to take us to the peak, as women are the best people to place in jobs. President Koroma made no mistake in appointing Mrs. Naasu Fofanah to head the Gender Unit in his office”, Brigadier Kestoria Kabia said.
She expressed hope that there will come a time when every top decision-making office in the country will be occupied by women, and therefore profusely thanked President Koroma for his initiative, and prayed for Gods’ continued guidance and protection of his leadership.
The RSLAF’s only female Brigadier also noted that, “We are also here to congratulate Mrs. Naasu Fofanah on her new appointment.” She further noted that even though Mrs. Fofanah has been in her little corner at the UN, yet President Koroma was able to identify her with the realization that she has something to offer the women of this country.
Giving a brief background of Women in the Security Sector in Sierra Leone (WISS-SL) the President Francess Nyuma who is also the Assistant Research Officer, Office of National Security, said women and gender issues have not been included in state building, such as, security and peace. She disclosed that women also face barriers in the areas of employment which hinges on their participation in security and the peace process.
It was against this background that WISS-SL was formed in 2008 and registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, with the aim to collaborate and support each other in the security sector and also to ensure that women’s issues, concerns and aspiration are mainstreamed, said Francess Nyuma.
She further disclosed that WISS-SL has embarked on series of sensitizations, trainings and other programmes that are vital for the empowerment and advancement of women in the security services, while revealing that, “It is disappointing to note that women are not represented at the National Security Council”.
The President of WISS-SL further revealed that there is about 3.8% to 4% of female representation in the RSLAF, which she described as one of the huge challenges in achieving the organization’s goals. She also added that there are only two female directors as against eleven male directors, and only one woman sits at the executive management board, adding that similar situations are common in the Sierra Leone Police, the National Fire Force, the Prison Service and the Department of Immigration, all clearly depicting grossly women’s underrepresentation at strategic security levels in the country.
Naasu Fofanah copiously thanked President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma for her appointment as Gender & Women’s Affairs Specialist in his office, where she is expected to advice on gender equality and the advancement of women’s rights in Sierra Leone. She said everything has been done in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to support the main goals of gender issues and women’s empowerment in the country. She called on women’s organizations from all sections of the society to work in closed collaboration with her office, and lauded the efforts of the RSLAF and the SLP for mainstreaming gender issues in the forces.
According to Mrs. Fofanah, women’s empowerment is a key priority of the government of President Koroma, saying that her office has always engaged the Head of State on the women’s declaration of the Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation as she puts it; “I believe in the vision of President Koroma and I want him to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 3. She therefore encouraged all women to be more proactive and more vibrant in the security sector.
Assistant Inspector General of Police and Director of Community Relations, Elizabeth Turay congratulated Mrs. Fofanah on her new appointment, which she said, did not surprise her as Susue, as she is fondly called, will live up to expectations.
Mrs. Turay also generously thanked President Koroma for placing somebody that will be looking into gender issues, and therefore pledged the total support of the SLP women to Mrs. Fofanah and vowed to work with her office as there is a lot to be done for women in Sierra Leone.
The Assistant Director of Prisons, Mrs. Cecilia Kaikai described the appointment as a very unique phenomenon in the governance history of Sierra Leone. This, she opined, will enable government to look into women and gender issues across the board and also reassured Mrs. Fofanah of her department’s fullest cooperation with the gender desk in the office of the President.
It would be recalled that the security sector has been identified as very much pivotal in maintaining peace and stability in Sierra Leone. Without peace and stability development cannot take place. It is for this very reason that a group comprising seven security organizations being formed to mainstream gender issues in the security sector in Sierra Leone is welcome news to very many people across the country.
Although security was not traditionally a sector that women considered to build their careers, the landscape has shifted dramatically as more and more women are now gravitating towards the sector, and with the appointment of a Gender Specialist in the Office of the President, there are rays of hope on the horizon for women and gender issues in the country.