October 1, 2022

Gender roles are fastly changing in the 21st century and must be re-defined. Since women are catching up with men in terms of economic, social and political rights, they must be made to share the roles at home on an equal platform.

The provision of welfare needs in homes must no be longer the sole responsibility of men, but must be a shared responsibility. Sierra Leone is now blessed with a mass of women parliamentarians, doctors, lawyers, ministers, magistrates, judges among others that contribute to nation building. It could be worthwhile for them to also contribute to the welfare of homes to provide relief for men.

In most homes, women own and control finances by virtue of jobs they occupy in the public and private sector. An unequal power relationship occurs when women controls the purse, a situation that should warrant them to come men’s rescue.

It goes without saying that the one who controls the purse should bear the burden. The argument goes if women fight for equality in diverse spheres of the economy, now is the time for roles to be shared.

It is hoped that society would get there in the future if not now. It is no longer a conceptualisation of the old notion of gender. In the old days, gender is conceptualised as roles that society ascribed to the two sexes: male or female.

Years gone by, certain roles were reserved for men while others kept for women. In homes, gatherings and other workplaces, women sweep, clean, cook, rear children and perform other domestic chores.

These chores are considered purely jobs for women and girls. Conversely, warfare, provision of welfare needs for the home and other important and difficult roles were carried out by the men.

The conceptualisation of gender offers a picture of Africa in the dark ages. Even Europe as well is captured in the conceptualisation.

Europe went out of this definition during the era of the emancipated woman. It was an era in which women in Europe enjoyed the right to self-determination.

They can decide for themselves regarding relationship to go into, when to enter or leave marriage or divorce, what tasks they could perform in society among several others. Almost invariably, women in the African continent became emancipated women following the coming of the white man and introduction of Western education and Christianity.

Western education which, to a large extent, is an embodiment of Western philosophies, values and way of life, preaches equality of the sexes. Christianity too preaches equality of the sexes.

It is about the equality of a men and women since they are created in the image of God. Putting Western values and philosophies in practice by most Africans sounded the death-knell of African customary usages and applications.

International human rights instruments and laws of free states in the community of nations recognise and uphold the equal rights of men and women.

Under international laws,   conventions, treaties and declarations, men and women are equal. They are equal by virtue of belonging to the human race.

As human beings, they are entitled to all rights and privileges that should be enjoyed by every human being. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, International  Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), 1989 preaches equality of the sexes.

UDHR was the first international human rights instrument to be proclaimed by world leaders after the Second World War, in 1945.

It is not binding on member states, but it however called on them to ensure recognition and respect for the fundamental rights, dignity and civil liberties of all human beings. The document which was referred to by academics as the Magna Carta Bill of the Universe gave birth to the twin covenants.

The Magna Carta Bill enacted in 2015 was the first human rights document in the United Kingdom. Owing to special problems confronting women in contemporary societies, special conventions and treaties were also proclaimed by intergovernmental bodies.

Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against women is one of the main international human rights instruments for women. CEDAW protects women from discrimination and marginalisation simply because they are women.

It says women should be at the centre of decision making processes especially on matters that affect their welfare. They should not only be seen but their voice must be heard.

It is believed that societies would be stable and progressive if conducive atmosphere is created for women to realise their full potentials. The responsibility to create the ideal platform for the expression of women’s voices fall within the mandates of states, nations and communities.

Most member states which are signatories to the human rights instruments have ratified and domesticate them.

Constitutions also known supreme laws in almost all sovereign states uphold the notion of equality between the sexes. Sierra Leone is a ratifier of most international conventions, treaties and declarations that protect the rights of women.

She has also domesticated these international human rights instruments.

In 2007, Sierra Leone enacted three major laws popularly known as the three gender Acts. The Domestic Violence Act (DVA), the Devolution of Estate Act (DEA) and the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act (RCDA) all passed in 2007 testifies to Sierra Leone’s readiness to make women equal with men.

The DVA is a law that protects women from all forms of violence. The law preaches a zero-tolerance on physical, economic and psychological or emotional abuse of women. Men are also similarly protected under this law by virtue if there is a domestic relationship.

However, women are at the centre of protection because of their vulnerability to violence by men. The DEA guarantees inheritance rights to women. In the past, women were not permitted to inherit property of their parents and their husbands.

Women at that time are also considered as property that should be equally inherited.  It was a situation that contributed to the feminization of abject poverty in Sierra Leone and many other African states.

The RCDA is about the protection of women who have cohabited with men for years. The law is very instructive that any woman who co-habits with a man for over five years is deemed a valid marital relationship after it is registered with a local council in a particular district.

The move is to ensure that women who are not officially wedded have a share of a property of a man who dies either testate or intestate. The enactment of these protective laws in Sierra Leone has linkage to campaigns by gender groups and activists.

The most notable being the 50-50 Group founded by Nemata Majeks Walker. The ink spilled by academics on gender parity is also noted. One recent publication was the one done by a lecturer in the University of Sierra Leone, Isha Ibrahim (Mrs) Titled “Examining the 30% Quota Campaign In Sierra Leone: ‘Whose Seat Will Be reserved.’

The literature sheds light on a key recommendation that warrants successive governments to allocate 30% of political and public service seats to women.

If women are such economic, social, political and other protections men, why not share the burden at home?