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Discrimination against women

“Women do two thirds of the world's work. Yet they earn only one tenth of the world's income and own less than one percent of the world's property. They are among the poorest of the world's poor.”

Barber B. Conable, Jr.

Women account for just over half of the population in Sierra Leone and yet they face discrimination because of the power balance in favour of men:

  • the male child has right of property / inheritance — even chieftaincy, especially in the Northern Province — over the female even when the female is senior / older;
  • women are not consulted on matters that affect them directly (such as how many children they bear, the resources they need to care for their children, who they marry, and other major family issues). The family members simply explain to the women decisions already taken and expect them to consent;
  • a woman in marriage does not have the right to choose when or whether to have sex with her partner; only the man has that right;
  • the woman does not have the right even to the children she bears; where separation occurs the children belong to the father;
  • because of poverty the girl child is mainly given into early marriage in return for favours or material benefits for the family;
  • many families do not send the girl child to school because they believe educating her would make her unsuitable as a house wife;
  • the woman is not expected to end a marital relationship; only the man has the right to decide.

Many of the problems that women suffer in their communities are related to the fact that the women should listen rather than speak out on matters that affect them in society. It should however be mentioned that this situation, even though very much prevalent in rural communities up province (the majority of communities) is becoming out of place in cities and big towns where the girl child is educated and has learnt about her rights. Only in village community do women continue to suffer such discriminatory traditional laws.