Sierra Leone News: Vulnerable groups are excluded from political leadership — -Study

By Stephen V. Lansana

Citizens believed that women, youths, the elderly and persons with disability are excluded from contesting for political leadership in the country, according to a new study.

The study, Preparing a Citizens’ Manifesto for Sierra Leone’s 2018 Election, which was conducted by Institute for Governance Reform (IRC) examined four excluded Social groups and individuals whose right to be voted for as a political leader have been historically marginalized in elections.

The study was undertaken by the Institute for Governance Reform as part of the inaugural work of the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium with funding from United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). The report was recently launched at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.

In talking about Women in politics, the study indicates that over 51 percent of the surveyed respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that men make better political leaders than women.

“The strongest reasons for not voting for women are religion, the perception that women are the weaker sex, and the belief that it is culturally wrong or plain reluctance to vote for a woman.”

“Conversely, nearly 80 percent respondents felt women should have an equal chance of being elected as men, with 72.6 percent of respondents stating they are willing to vote for a woman. About 75.2 percent of men state they are willing to vote for a woman MP [Member of Parliament] compared to 87.8 percent women, while 62.6 percent of men state that they will vote for a woman for president compared to 87.8 percent of women,” the study shows.

Moyamba and Kailahun districts are the most progressive in accepting women’s political leadership.

According to the study, an overwhelming 77.7 percent of respondents state that will not vote for persons with disabilities (PWDs) as president, compared to only 18.7 percent of respondents that affirm they will.

“Nearly 70 percent of respondents across the board are unwilling to elect PWDs for various political positions, showing that high levels of discrimination exist against PWDs, at least when it comes to running for political office,” study indicates.

The study indicates that respondents are more favourable about the rights of PWDs to participate in the electoral process as voters.

“Respondents also note that PWDs have difficulties in voting. Among PWDs, the blind are believed to be the most physically challenged regarding ability to exercise their vote. The hearing impaired, physically disabled and the elderly are seen to be better accommodated,” the study points out.

In stating the attitude of citizens towards the youths, the study shows that an overwhelming majority of respondents believe that “young people can be good leaders”. “Correspondingly, 76 percent disagree with the statement that “only older people are mature enough to lead.” This shows that there is less opposition to youth political participation than toward PWDs and women.