Placing women at the heart of Freetown
From water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), to food systems and marketplaces; Freetown carefully positions women at the heart of the city’s programming. Despite leading the capital city of one of the lowest ranking countries in the Gender Equality Index, Mayor Aki-Swayerr knows that with an intentional approach, she can improve the lives of the women and girls in her city.
City leaders in Freetown have been taking stock of the challenges the city faces, and considering how this impacts women and girls specifically. In one instance, municipal leaders were confronted by the harassment of young girls at water stations in the early hours of the morning, when they collected water for their household’s daily use. In another case, they saw young children spending idle days around the city while their mothers worked. Or in a final example, they saw how COVID lockdowns disproportionately impacted women who could no longer sell or buy food while the city struggled with hunger and instability.
To respond to this, municipal leaders have adjusted programs and policies in their city – including flagship efforts like “Water 4 Peace” with UNCDF, and “Freetown The Treetown” with the World Bank. For example, by positioning women as the gatekeepers of water stations, the city has created new livelihoods for women, while also safeguarding young girls who come to them for collection. In another example, the Mayor created early-years learning centers inside marketplaces, for women who work nearby to send their children to school while they focused on their business with more peace of mind. And by bringing women into a COVID-era urban farming program, municipal leaders offered peace and food security to entire communities, while positioning women as key actors in this program and offering them new livelihoods after lockdown.
During CHANGE’s 2022 annual summit, Manja Kargbo, Head of Mayoral Delivery Unit in Freetown, explains her city’s approach to supporting women and girls.