My research during the “Challenges to Peacebuilding” course in Sierra Leone pertained to women’s needs post-conflict. Below are a few questions I asked some of the various interviewees in Sierra Leone, followed by responses I heard.
What are some of the causal factors of gender based violence here in Sierra Leone?
There is a societal acceptance that men beat wives because they love them.
The husband/wife relationship is culturally defined. The women have low self esteem because the culture has forced women to fell powerless.
The wife is heavily reliant on the husband leading her to be treated like property.
Women are starting to grasp gender equality but accepting and implementing it is different.
A low rate of literacy and a lack of schooling among women, contributes to the gender based violence.
Women do not know their rights, or do not have confidence that they can successfully exercise those rights.
“The practice of female genital mutilation is embedded into society.”
What are some of the ways you work towards community development and the promotion of women’s rights and security?
policy assessment and lobbying
community theater-training 40 youth a year on drama and communication skills, street drama, puppetry and radio drama
mapping themes, problems and solutions- pictorial/visual conceptualizations
local advocacy to work with men about women’s issues as they are “secondary stakeholders”
provide a community support, mediation, counseling and resource center for women and their families
Sadly, one community-based organizations reported an increase of rape in their community. Like much of the world, the majority of rape in Sierra Leone is within the family and extended family. Much like some other cultures, police stay away from the issue of rape, deeming it a “family affair.” It makes sense that after a war in which rape was used as a weapon, rape remained prevalent following the end of the war before much progress had been made for ex-combatants to reintegrate into society. I was told that ex-combatants carried on raping women because they were accustomed to lawlessness, violence and destruction.
Huge strides in gender equality are needed to make progress in the on-going peacebuilding process.