The United Nations is a highly respected international body and its officers should ensure they do all possible to avoid dragging the UN through the mud. This brings me to how the UN Country Representative in Sierra Leone, Mr. Sunil Saigal was speaking yesterday February 28th 2017 up at Parliament during a certain event. It was an event which saw the Gender Minister Hon. Dr. Sylvia Blyden, very prominently ABSENT from a so-called Gender Equality event launched by UN Women and the Sierra Leone Parliament; a parliament whose legislative and oversight role is now intermingled with that of the role of the Executive.
There is now a visible blurring of lines of separation of powers. The question to ponder is that if Parliament implements, then who oversights the process? The Executive?
The loud absence of the Gender Minister Hon. Dr. Sylvia Blyden from that event cannot be un-connected with her strong stance to educate our UN Partners on the way forward in handling Female Circumcision (aka FGM) in this country. Time and time again, the honourable lady has educated our Partners that the policy of Government is to protect the girls and respect the women.
For this Government, the girl child under the age of 18 years should not be subjected to any form of circumcision or cutting of her genitals. Even after reaching age 18, no woman should be forced to do anything with her body against her wish.
By corollary, no woman should be disrespected from doing whatever she wants to do with her body. Abortion kills more women than circumcision (FGM) does in this country but yet still there are those who want to legalize abortion and ban circumcision. Strange irony.
Another irony yesterday is that Parliament was seen doing what the Gender Ministry should have taken a lead on. So is this a programme to be implemented? If so, who will now oversight Parliament?
Many people understand the reasons behind certain actions by certain people and institutions. No need to go publicly into those reasons.
My advise to the U.N. in this country is for them to stop the attempts at divide and rule. Parliament oversights the implementation of gender issues by the Gender Ministry. Constitutionally, the Executive handles policies with foreign Partners and Gender Ministry is the part of Executive dealing with all things gender. Gender Ministry should be the focal point that the UN should be dealing with. If the Gender Minister Hon. Blyden says she does not endorse the UN’s position on FGM, then the UN should understand that the Cabinet Minister is saying what the Cabinet of His Excellency the President has directed her to say.
Has the UN come to work within the tenets of the current Government policies or are some UN operatives simply here to disrespect our Women? Food for thought!
Undermining the Gender Minister is unfortunate. The UN chief in country should take guidance from the Gender Minister. It will be helpful to him. One of the most unfortunate parts of the speech by Mr. Sunil Saigal yesterday was when he said all Sierra Leone men should forcefully stop their adult female relatives from undergoing FGM circumcision even if the adult woman wants to be circumcised. Unbelievable nonsense! Whatever happens to the right of a woman to manage her body as she sees fit? I listened to the UN Boss with disbelief in my mind! This stance of Mr. Sunil Saigal exposes his poor knowledge of the Sierra Leone society which one would imagine he should know better about by now. But what should one expect from a foreigner who does not even know that Sierra Leone currently has 14 female Paramount Chiefs? In his misguided speech, the UN boss was repeatedly saying we have eleven female Paramount Chiefs and 138 male Paramount Chiefs. If only the UN Boss had worked with the Gender Ministry, he would have been better briefed to know that Sierra Leone currently has fourteen female Paramount Chiefs and 135 male Paramount Chiefs in this country. And that is not the only point of lack of knowledge on his part. There is a lot more I can point out but let me just advise that the UN Country Team should go back to the drawing board in this country’s Gender sector. There is a lot more depth to our myriad of gender issues than superficial arrogance of someone coming to tell the men to tell the women that FGM will not be on their watch. The majority of the women of this country are not impressed. The UN boss should not limit his understanding of our complicated gender issues to only the loud noise from empty buckets.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.