His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio joins world leaders as a HeForShe Champion with bold and groundbreaking commitments to achieve Gender Equality
On 21 May, 2019 His Excellency Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, the President of Republic of Sierra Leone joined the world leaders as HeForShe Champion.
With pulpable; deep sincerity, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio reiterated his unwavering commitment to speak out, take action and eliminate impunity in particular, rape of girls and women while addressing all forms of violence against women and girls.
Violence against children will not be tolerated in Sierra Leone. This is why without thinking much about legal or the social implications, I declared a state of national emergency against rape of children and women. Something had to be done to send a clear message to perpetrators and their accomplices that the government is watching and will protect children from such heinous acts, said the President.
Now, I can work backwards to look at the law and how the state of emergency will be implemented and I welcome the support such as being given by UN Women and other UN agency partners.
This is also why the First Lady launched the #Hands-Off Our Girls Campaign, noted the President. We will ensure that we systematically address all forms of discrimination and inequalities in our society.
The occasion was graced by the Minister for Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Hon Mme Baindu Dassama Kamara, UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Sunil Saigal; the Presidential Press Secretary, Mr Yusuf Keke Thomas; UN Women Representative to Sierra Leone Dr. Mary Okumu and the entire UN Women Country Office staff.
Hon Baindu Dassama Kamara, briefed the President on actions the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs is taking in response to the Presidential Declaration on the state of National Emergency against sexual violence noting that she will be leading a High Level Delegation comprising the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, the Chief Justice, the Inspector General of Police, the Chief Medical Officer and senior Social Welfare and Laboratory Officers to a South-South Learning Mission sponsored by UN Women to see a good model of a comprehensive, multisectoral, integrated Programme response to sexual violence against girls and women in the Caribbean. The Minister said, she would shortly update the President on measures her Ministry in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Police and the Judiciary are working on in response to the Presidential Declaration on state of National Emergency on rape and related sexual violence offenses.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Sunil Saigal noting with commendation, the President’s action of prioritizing and addressing gender inequalities in protection of the rights of women and girls. The UNRC noted that Sierra Leone is making significant progress in particular, having a dedicated Cluster (Cluster 5) which speaks directly to SDG 5 and 10 on addressing gender inequalities and the empowerment of women; further noting that the government is making strides in the implementation of the SDGs and would soon present its Voluntary National Report (VNR).
In her statement, the Representative of UN Women in Sierra Leone, Dr Mary Okumu likewise, commended H.E. the President for his demonstrable commitment to the protection of the rights of women and girls and for providing leadership and active engagement in appointing women in his cabinet (although while commending the President noted that the women were still under represented and asked “like Oliver Twist, we are asking for more women) in appointed public decision making positions. She thanked H.E. the President for accepting to become a HeForShe champion which is an indication of walking the talk and a sign of hope at the end of the tunnel for women of Sierra Leone.
Dr Okumu made specific reference commending the President’s Declaration of the State of National Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence against women and girls saying this was positive action sending the message that rape and related sexual violence will no longer be tolerated in Sierra Leone. She expressed optimism that when forensic laboratory becomes available, it will enhance DNA testing and conclusively provide evidence on suspected offenders to be jailed. She assured the President that UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP as well as other International Development Partners will shortly be discussing how to will be work together to finance the forensic laboratory.
After his decoration as HeForShe Champion, the President reiterated his personal and government commitment to making women and girls central to his government’s development plans as inscribed in the New Direction Vision. In conclusion, this is what the President said:
“…Women have played a remarkable role in making me who I am today. My commitment to making women central to the national development agenda is not only because they constitute a greater portion of the population of our country but because of their competence and demonstrated resilience in nation building. It is a matter of right and urgency.