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Gender in Practice

Culture, Politics and Society in Sierra Leone

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John Idriss Lahai

In Sierra Leone, the dominant epistemological framework of the political and social history of the country and the post-colonial understanding of the place of men and women are based on the inter-subjective discourses of power, place, identity and belongingness. Through a complex web of culturally regulated, politically motivated and patriarchally conditioned belief systems on sexualities, a transition is imagined that goes beyond symbolism and familial attributes. Its aesthetics, as this book demonstrates, are deployed as a domain in which the political and cultural understanding of statehood, gender relations, politics, governance, armed conflict, human rights, women’s empowerment and sexual identity are made and remade. In the main, the rudimentary discourses on the everyday individual/collective survival strategies of women have exposed, in expressive forms, the gendered uncertainties in people’s lives. However, in practical terms, as described in this book, these uncertainties are a demonstration of the tensions between culturalism (and its post-colonial discontents) and the gender-ideological narrative concerning the question of gender equality and women’s place in politics, culture and society across time and space in Sierra Leone.
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Chapter 10: Women’s Agency and the Institutionalisation of Interventions Against Gender Violence and Discrimination Against Women

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CHAPTER 10

Women’s Agency and the Institutionalisation of Interventions Against Gender Violence and Discrimination Against Women

The institutional approaches to promote the empowerment of women (EoW), and combat violence against women and girls (VAWG) and discrimination against women (DAW) are constitutively framed by the government, mostly after intense international pressures, and case-managed by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA). This chapter explores the origin and contributions of the MSWGCA in the fight for EoW and to end VAWG and DAW, including the social dynamics of the everyday that shape behaviours and discourses around women generally, through the construction and implementation of institutionalised rules, norms and policies.

There are three intertwined variables that give the MSWGCA its legitimacy and justification for its duty-of-care approach in promoting the EoW and in combating VAWG and DAW. The first is the co-constitutive way in which it shapes behaviour at the grassroots level as a means of changing the political dynamics at the top. The attempt to teach a nation that was oblivious to the meaning of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and indifferent to the consequences of VAWG and DAW, did not come without political tensions. The establishment of an institution to mainstream women’s individual concerns into governmental policies was an attempt to offset the political status quo. Though still in the process of becoming effective, its institutionalised ‘duty-of-care’ approach to issues of concern for women is about contesting for...

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