Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday signed into law a law requiring all public or private organizations to reserve 30% of their jobs for women, including in leadership positions, in a society that traditionally favours men.
"The Women's Equality and Empowerment Act that I am signing into law today will undoubtedly completely redress the gender imbalances in our country. We must make sure it works," the president said during the signing ceremony in Freetown.
The text also applies to Parliament where 30% of the 146 seats must be occupied by women. Some 18 women sit in Parliament today and four are among the 32 members of Mr. Bio's government.
"We must no longer hamper, belittle, intimidate or hinder women who want to work in the public sector and those who support them," President Bio said.
"It's not going to be easy because this space has been occupied by men for a very long time, we have to monitor the electoral processes to ensure fairness and transparency in the elections," he said.
Employers who do not comply with the law face a fine of 50,000 leones (2,400 euros) for each violation.
The text also aims to promote women's access to financing and links public spending to equality between men and women. Those who deny women equal access to financial support risk at least three years in prison.
Rights defenders have long denounced the discrimination against women as well as the violence to which they are subjected in this poor country of 7.5 million inhabitants.