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Sierra Leone is one of the most gender inequal countries in the world. Inequalities pervade all aspects of a woman’s life in Sierra Leone and are a key focus of both government programs and development practitioners. As we work on the ground, it will be critical to understand the existing inequalities, their central causes, and the work being done to address them. Women in Sierra Leone face particular difficulties when it comes to health, education, and gender-based violence. These issues stem from traditional practices, the Sierra Leonean civil war, and the structural adjustment programs developed by the government. In the face of this grim picture there is evidence of people trying to affect change by altering legal frameworks and promoting women’s organizations at the local level.
Women in Sierra Leone faces many challenges in regards to their health, education and gender-based violence. Women in Sierra Leone live 10 years less than the average African woman and have almost half the lifespan of a woman in the developed world. (McFerson 2012, 51). They face one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, as high as 2,100 deaths per 100,000 live births (McFerson 2012, 51). Female genital cutting has impacted 80-90% of women in the country (OECD 2010, 260). Less than a third of women are literate, which is also less than the average African woman, while rates of numeracy are about half those of men in Sierra Leone (McFerson 2012, 51). 42% of girls are enrolled in primary school, but few are given the ability to continue their education (McFerson 2012, 51). Domestic violence is common place, with 85% of women believing a beating is justified for actions such as going out without telling her husband, arguing with her husband, refusing sex, or burning food on accident.

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