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Pre-Election Press Conference by the WSR Sierra-Leone, 2012

Press Conference on November 15, 2012

A press conference was held on November 15, 2012 few days before the elections to update the media on activities being carried out by the women since the launch of the room in September 22, 2012. The press release was read by Her Excellency Hadja Alari Cole, an Eminent Woman and former Sierra Leonean Ambassador to Iran.

 The Women’s Situation Room is a process to promote peaceful and non-violent elections while increasing the active participation of women and youth in democratic and electoral processes, in accordance with UNSCR 1325. It is a political process that aims at mobilizing, harnessing and employing the expertise and experiences of women in taking action to prevent or mitigate potential conflict that could emerge before during and after the elections. The Women’s Situation Room is not intended as a punctual intervention but aimed at achieving long-lasting effects. It involves consultative engagements with all electoral stakeholders and creates a space for women to be involved in peace advocacy, mediation, coordination, political analysis, observation, and documentation.

The Women’s Situation Room in Sierra Leone is driven by a coalition of 45 indigenous and international women’s organizations and groups and it will deploy over 350 national and international elections observers across the country on Election Day (November 17th 2012) to observe the voting process. The observers, mostly young women, have received accreditation from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to observe the elections, after going through a training exercise.

The physical Women’s Situation Room is currently set up at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen, Freetown, taking up most of the key activities run by the secretariat at the YWCA, Brookfields.

The Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC), Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET) and Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) ushered in 18 eminent women from across the sub-region as observers and expert mediators, to lend their support to the peace process. Amongst the personalities present are: H.E. Haja Mahawa Bangoura, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guinea and current Chair of Guinea’s transitional parliament’s Electoral Laws Committee, H.E. Olubanke King-Akerele, former Foreign Minister and Minister of Commerce & Industry of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. Josephine Odera, Regional Director for UN Women in West Africa, Ms Elizabeth Lwanga, former UNDP Resident Representative for Sierra Leone and current UN Women Ag. Officer in Charge for Liberia, Turrie Akerele, former Solicitor General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Counsellor Yvette Chesson-Wureh of ABIC, initiator of the WSR, Ticky Monekosso, member Executive Board of FAS, Clara Doe Mvogo, Shipra Bose, Davidetta Brown Lansana, Adelaide Gardiner, Alice Zadi, Rosaline Toweh, Mafelena Dosso, Korpo Howard, Nantenin Kone, and Martha Wisseh. The international presence in the Women’s Situation Room was complemented by Sierra Leonean eminent women in the persons of Ambassador Haja Alari Cole, Dr. Sarah Bendu, Executive Director SLRA, Ms. Barbara Bangura, WSR National Consultant and Ms. Stella Bangura, Miss West Africa 2011.

Since October, the Women’s Situation Room coalition members have conducted trainings for 700 youth from all over the country to enable them understand their rights and how to access 15 November 2012 them; 50 media practitioners on gender sensitive and responsible reporting, and 140 women Pressure Group members, who represent the Women’s Situation Room in all 14 districts of Sierra Leone. On 09 November, the Women’s Situation Room organized peace marches in all the 14 districts to urge the two major political parties to manage their supporters and ensure that the election and post-election period is peaceful. In Freetown, the WSR members marched through the main streets of Freetown to the offices of the two main political parties; the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP); to appeal for peaceful elections.

The concept was introduced by West African women peace leaders and activists and was first implemented under the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) leadership during the Liberia’s 2011 elections. It has been recognized as a Best Practice by the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) at the African Union (AU) Summit of January 2012 to be replicated in all African elections. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia was requested to be the “Champion” of the Women’s Situation Room, and she graciously accepted. The Women’s Situation Room concept has been successfully replicated in the Senegalese elections of 2012.

Using the slogan, “Peace is in our Hands” the Women’s Situation Room process is taking place in Sierra Leone for the presidential, parliamentary and local elections scheduled to take place on November 17, 2012.

UN Women, UNDP, the National Telecommunications Company (NATCOM), FAS, Urgent Action Fund-Africa, ECOWAS, ABIC, and many, many other national and international development partners are supporting the women of Sierra Leone in running the activities of the Women’s Situation Room.

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