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Anatomy of an Evolving Movement: The Women’s Peace Movement and Political Activism in Sierra Leone since the 1990s

Josephine A. Beoku-Betts, Lynda R. Day


This paper examines why the successes of the Sierra Leone Women’s Peace Movement (SLWPM) have not translated into tangible and sustainable policy gains for women in the post-war period.i We document some of the current challenges facing the women’s movement, including concerns of SLWPM visionary leaders in both rural and urban areas. We argue that the SLWPM was a sociocentric movement to end the war, drive out the military government, and establish a democratically elected government. However, without centering gender in its plan of action, opportunities for social transformation could not be realized, opening the way for the re-inscription of previous gender inequalities. In the current period, lessons learned from the past continue to shape the movement’s response to the realities that women face on a daily basis. Indeed, women’s consciousness of a collective identity remains a latent force steering the movement forward. The article is based on interviews conducted in Sierra Leone between 1995 and 2012 and is conceptually informed by analytical frameworks that explain women’s mobilization during processes of democratic transition. The paper identifies the following road blocks impeding the post-war women’s movement: (a) persistent masculinist tendencies in both attitudes and political structure; (b) a vacuum in leadership and funding structures leading to fragmentation in the movement; and (c) the professionalization of former volunteer organizations into non-governmental organizations.


Women’s movement; Political activism; Peace movement; Gender equality; NGOs; Women’s empowerment; Policy reforms, Sierra Leone; Africa

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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