As Sierra Leone prepares for presidential, parliamentary and local council elections scheduled for November 17, 2012, civil society, the government, the security sector and the international community have expressed grave concern about the potential for electoral violence, given the history of antagonism among political parties.
In the past elections, Sierra Leoneans have witnessed political violence such as physical assault on candidates and their supporters, threats and intimidation of candidates and voters, and provocation propaganda. Women are always at risk of such violence and there have been instances where female candidates and their supporters have been subjected to intimidation, harassment, and even physical assault by forces who oppose women’s candidacy. Such violence and fear have the effect of deterring both female candidates and voters from casting ballots.
As women play a vital role in the restoration of peace and democracy during the country’s conflict, they also have the potential to be leaders for peace throughout the election cycle.
In this vein, Fambul Tok, with funds from the people and government of the United States of America, proposes to work with Peace Mothers in Kono and Kailahun and other potential civil society groups to empower women to act as leaders for peace and stability in their communities in two ways — to amplify their voices in support of peace, non-violence, and political tolerance before, during, and after the elections and to develop cooperative relationships with election authorities such as local chiefs, police and district committees monitoring political parties conduct in order to prevent and respond to election-related conflict. Peace Mothers will also have the opportunity to attend District Code of Conduct Monitoring Committee meetings to have clear knowledge on the role of the committees and to to understand the ‘dos and don’ts’ of the Sierra Leonean Police.
Prior to the training sessions in Kono and Kailahun districts, a planning workshop was organized by Fambul Tok International – Sierra Leone to give an opportunity to different women’s groups to develop potential peace messages to be used in communities before, during and after elections. Peace Mothers in the provinces also gave input on the messages (both pictorial and verbal) in order to improve on them.
A facilitator’s guide was designed as a tool for community peace ambassadors who will lead the process of ensuring that women participate in enhancing violence-free, fair and transparent 2012 elections. The guide includes peace messages for radio and community discussion, basic information on mediation skills, and the role of the District Code of conduct Monitoring Committees and the Sierra Leone Police.
The peace ambassadors, two from each chiefdom in Kono and Kailahun districts, are also expected to train their women folks and organize chiefdom meetings in their various communities.