Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE recently spoke at the launch of the City Hub and Network for Gender Equity (CHANGE). The virtual event also welcomed Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles; Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Mayor of Mexico City; and Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo.
A shared effort between their cities, CHANGE was launched as the world’s first international city network dedicated to the pursuit of gender equality.
Kicking off her speech, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr stressed the importance of understanding that, in the context of global disparities, overcoming gender inequality can be an even more complex task depending on where you are:
“We are talking today about gender disparity, and gender disparity is just one of many disparities. Let’s step back for a moment and recognize that there is global disparity. And in the context of being a woman in a country which is already suffering from being underdeveloped or developing, that level of disparity is accentuated, and I think it’s an important point to make.
It’s an important point to make not because what’s going on in other parts of the world is any less challenging, but because perhaps the hurdles for overcoming the gender disparity in the global south is complicated by the restricted access to resources nationally, locally, and at the individual level.”
Mayor Aki-Sawyerr then went on to explain how she is tackling gender inequality in Sierra Leone’s capital through her ‘Transform Freetown’ initiative:
“Transform Freetown is our three-year agenda for the city’s transformation, and we’ve put women’s issues right at the heart of it. We have four clusters: resilience, human development, healthy city, and urban mobility. And in human development in particular, we do everything through lens…when you talk about education, skills development, persons with disability, job creation, women and girls drive or just we ensure we are disproportionately favoring actions which will help women and girls.
And we do this knowing that even in other sectors, such as urban planning and development, such as health, that again the targets we set ourselves as a city are targets which are going to help women.”
When asked about the reason why now is the most appropriate time to launch CHANGE, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr noted that both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis the world is currently facing have demonstrated the extent to which women are impacted and the extent to which they can be a solution:
“Launching CHANGE now means that we have the ears of many people, and it’s an opportunity to ensure that we are building in these ideas, these policies, this focus on gender parity into the solutions for reducing the chances of another pandemic and also into the solutions for climate as we go into this recovery.”
To watch the full launch event, click here.