The 50/50 Group was set up because even though peace had been achieved through the blood, sweat, tears and suffering of the women and men of Sierra Leone, women were relegated to the back seat in the new post-war government and continue to be seriously under-represented in political life in Sierra Leone. Despite making up over half the population, in 2002, only 8% of Sierra Leone MPs were women.
The 50/50 Group had its genesis in 1997, from collaborative discussions and subsequent work by Mrs. Abator Davidson, former acting director of the British Council, and Lesley Abdela, a member of the British Council Board in the UK, who had helped to found the influential ‘300 Group’ in Britain, which worked for gender parity in the House of Commons and public life. The new Director of the British Council, Rajiv Bendre – invited Lesley to Freetown in November 2000 to run a programme guiding influential Sierra Leonean women on increasing women’s participation in democratic politics. 40 Sierra Leonean women participated in the programme.
One of the participants, Nemata Majeks-Walker, was so inspired that when asked for her action plan, she said she would set up a group similar to the 300 Group. Thus was 50/50 born! Nemata led the Group’s lobbying work as its Founder-President, on equality between women and men in politics and public life. In an impressive and symbolic ceremony at the House of Parliament in Sierra Leone, the group was launched on the 30th November 2001 by the then Head of state, President Tejan Kabbah six months before the 2002 general elections.
The keynote address was given by emeritus professor Eldred Durosimi Jones. That same day, the group staged a mock parliamentary debate on the need for equitable representation of men and women in parliament, in the Well of the House itself.