In the 2012 Presidential Elections, of the two major political parties (SLPP and APC) Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio was the only candidate who selected a distinguished woman who would have been the first female Vice President of Sierra Leone. It was a bold, courageous and brave decision especially in a political system dominated by men. But Bio’s commitment to increase women’s participation in politics goes beyond nominating women to occupy responsible positions.
During the recent unveiling of his policies to address the critical development challenges in a New Direction Government, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio stated that low participation of women in politics is caused by socio-cultural factors, education, legal and policy environment and economic factors. Therefore, addressing these challenges will require for Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio to form the next Government to initiate policies and programmes to increase women’s participation in politics.
However, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio also believes that he does not have to wait until SLPP forms the next Government to address the economic barrier for many women in the SLPP who desire to serve their people. There are many great female aspirants who are most times put off from vying for Party symbols because of lack of financial resources but Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio is now taking the lead through the SLPP to say that no female aspirant should be discouraged from participating in politics because of the economic burden of both application and candidature fees.
As a Party, there is no doubt that the decision to waive application fees for female aspirants, refund fees already paid by female aspirants and undertake the payment of candidature fees to National Electoral Commission for prospective female SLPP candidates will be a loss to party revenue. But any price we have to pay to ensure more women participate in politics, the SLPP must lead the way and Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio should set the standard for other Presidential Candidates to emulate.
Apart from women in politics, the Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio also recently outlined in his New Direction that he will promote gender equality, equity, empowerment and the protection of the rights of women either as mainstream interventions or as stand-alone initiatives. Among the specific actions, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio as the next President will focus on:
(i) free education for women pursuing sciences, engineering and medical disciplines in the university
(ii) Women’s Development Fund to support female entrepreneurs
(iii) promote women in agriculture
(iv) working with political parties to increase the participation of women in politics
(v) reviewing and implementing existing gender laws and policies.
Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio is the only Presidential Candidate with the track record at the highest level of state governance of delivering on his promise. As President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio will deliver on his commitment to women for gender equality, equity, empowerment and the protection of the rights of women.
©SLPP Information, Media and Communications Committee