Despite Sierra Leone’s three landmark acts designed to expand women's rights, most women were unaware of their right to obtain a divorce, inherit property, and seek justice for domestic violence. The 50/50 Group translated these three laws into the four main languages of Sierra Leone, had trusted community religious leaders record themselves reading the rights, and broadcasted the recordings throughout the country.
Violence against women is a pervasive problem in Sierra Leone. Despite three landmark acts designed to expand women's rights, most women are unaware of their new ability to obtain a divorce, inherit property, and seek justice for domestic violence. The situation is further compounded by societal pressures to protect the family unit, at the cost of women's health and wellbeing, and the reliance on traditional justice mechanisms, which are often biased against women seeking redress for their grievances.
To increase awareness of women's legal rights, the 50/50 Group translated three gender acts - the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Devolution of Property Act - into Sierra Leone's four main languages. Using the translations, the group held workshops and extensive discussions with tribal and religious leaders, all of whom are considered to be important strategic allies in the war against domestic violence. Following the workshops, the leaders were asked to record themselves reading the acts aloud. These recordings were then played on the radio and broadcast throughout Sierra Leone.
As a result of the 50/50 Group’s efforts, thousands of women, many of whom were illiterate, are now more aware of the rights afforded to them by three gender-specific acts. Radio proved to be an effective medium for disseminating simplified versions of these acts in Sierra Leone’s main languages. Tribal and religious leaders were sensitized to the plight of physically abused women, and were made aware of their key provisions under the law.
Key partners in this effort included:
- The media;
- Tribal and religious chiefs;
- Civil society groups; and
- Law enforcement officials (who were invited to join the training workshops)