Source: Awareness Times Women across the country, who assembled on 13th and 14th May 2014 in Magburaka Town to draft the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Bill and domestication of CEDAW in a consultative forum, have expressed their disappointment over what they described as bad customs and tradition which do not allow them in certain parts of the country to sit on the Paramount ChieftaincyThrone.
The contention emanated from an opinion pool during the session that preceded the drafting of the bill. Although the challenge was not physically confrontational but anger and desperate moves did signify a protest against some of the traditional rulers that were at the forum. "If we were part of those food attendants the 3 Paramount Chiefs who made sarcastic comments will not be given food" a group of women whispered. Contributions by many stakeholders into the all important document kicked against the traditional impediment which debars women from becoming Paramount Chiefs in some areas.
When the participants were overwhelmingly suggesting the replacement of certain clauses that militate against women taking chieftaincy positions in the 2009 Chieftaincy Act or the National Constitution, Paramount Chief Bai Siaka Pinkarr Kargbo (ii) of Debia Chiefdom Port Loko District said among the Catholics there are certain positions that should not be headed by women. In the Islamic doctrine, he said no woman is allowed to lead prayers or become Imam. Among the Temne, Kono, Limba, Koranko and some Mende, women are not allowed by tradition and custom to lay claim to the chieftaincy throne. "We met this precedence and we should maintain it."
Paramount Chief Alhaji Kandeh Paria Kawalleh (ii) of Gbanti Kamaranka Chiefdom Bombali District said there were differences in customs and traditions and it must be obeyed. He said the Kantha ceremony is a sacred and difficult marathon that women will not be able to go through.
At this juncture, lead facilitator Dr. Aish Ibrahim Fofanah emphasized that, customs and tradition can change. In a defiant mood she confrontationally said the most difficult marathon or exercise that is strenuous and risky is giving birth to a baby. She went on to say that there is nothing difficult in the application of any societal ceremony than being in the labour room.
However, the Hon. Paramount Chief from Moyamba, Joseph Ali Kavura Kongomoh (ii) said all the traditions and customs that discriminate against women's right to Paramount Chieftaincy should be expunged from the 2009 Chieftaincy Act and the 1991 Constitution. According to him the traditions and customs should be changed in order to allow women to participate. He also frowned at the ambiguity in various laws th at are discriminating all the rights of women in Sierra Leone.
According to the Hon. Paramount Chief, there are also very hazardous and sacred ceremonies in the Moyamba District, like the Waende but women are still serving as Paramount Chiefs.
Paramount Chief J.K. Macavoray (iii) of Tinkonko Bo District said customs and traditions are paramount but the right of the people comes first. He said a day will come when all the people will rise up and say they need a female Paramount Chief and it will be. He disclosed that situations will change when the time comes.
Most of the female participants from the North agitated against the bad law.
All prominent women including the Minority Leader, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, The Human Right Commissioner Mrs. Jamestina King, Madam Nasu Fofana, Gender Advisor at State House, Civil Society Activists, other traditional rulers unanimously agreed to throw their support behind women irrespective of their political or other differences. "Let us all always support women who are in big positions in our country"; Nasu Fofana maintained adding that that is one of the dreams of President Koroma. She appealed to all the women to always emulate women like the Minority Leader, the First Lady, the Chief Justice and many others.