By: Edward Blake, ACC
The scourge of corruption had wreaked havoc on every facet of society during and after the world wars running through to the struggles for self-rule by Nations.
Due to its ferocious posture, corruption became a thorn in the flesh which necessitated the meeting in New York in 2003 of big as well as smaller nations to lay bare the problem of corruption for collective global action. Hence the adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in that same year. Remarkably, Sierra Leone had already gone ahead to establish through an Act of Parliament in 2000, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) which sole responsibility was to lead the fight against corruption.
As a mark of its commitment to the UNCAC, Sierra Leone joined other nations on 9th December 2005 to commemorate the International Anti-Corruption Day and since then every year.
However, arising from the chauvinistic tendencies of men in our societies, disparaging comments have been attributed to the female sex such as; "women are weaker sex, women are empty vessels, women should be seen not heard" etc.
These demeaning statements however, have found a reclusive position in our national discourse even with the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1967.
Agitating women's groups and campaigners emerged across the world which led to the enactment of laws and policies by Governments in different countries.
Sierra Leone not an exception, had signed to International and Regional Treaties to ensure that Women's rights and inclusivity are safe and secured.
As recent as 2019, the Government of Sierra Leone enacted three gender laws which further guaranteed women of a safer place, space and protection.
Women before this time in Sierra Leone have had little or no say in the political governance of the country except for few, more especially when it has to do with tackling corruption. Is it because they (women) could be seen as perpetrators, collaborators, or end users of the proceeds of corruption?
These and many more questions have generated debates and discussions. What definitely seems to be true is that ever since the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2000, less than 20% of all convicts of corruption are women.
In a bid to fostering and soliciting the support of women but more critically in putting them at the center in the prevention, prosecution and eradication of corrupt practices, the leadership of the Anti-Corruption Commission in the commemoration of this Year's (2021) International Anti-Corruption Day, deliberately took the move to call on all Sierra Leonean women to a National Conference and Panel Discussion on the topic; "Maximizing the Role of Women in the fight against Corruption in Sierra Leone: Opportunities and Challenges".
In sync with the local theme which is "Women taking Center Stage in the Fight Against Corruption", Sierra Leone joined the entire world on December 9, to bring together women of high repute and stature, such as; Nicky Spencer Koker Esq., Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, Madam Hawa Samai, and Hon. Veronica Sesay to dilate and elaborate on the aforesaid topic.
Important to note is that, the Anti-Corruption Commission under the leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., received overwhelming vote of confidence from the women of this country through his Meet the People tour Town Hall meetings in every district and some chiefdom headquarter towns.
Since his appointment as Head of the ACC in 2018, he is known to be the first Commissioner that has through affirmative action promoted 80% of the female staff of the Commission to Senior and Middle Management levels, in positions such as, Senior Officers, Managers, Deputy Directors and Directors.
This is clear manifestation of the Commissioner's resolve and desire to position women strategically in the fight against corruption.
The National Women's Conference could have come at no better time than this time. The clarion call has been made and the ACC is determined to making women take centre stage in the fight as part of the continued repositioning of the overall fight against corruption in Sierra Leone.