Bintumani Hotel, Freetown, Friday 14 December 2018 – His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has officially launched the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ flagship programme of First Lady Fatima Bio, with the theme: “Ending Child Marriage and Reducing Teenage Pregnancy to Empower Women”.
Before that keynote statement, Her Excellency the First Lady, Fatima Bio, welcomed her colleague First Ladies from Africa and other stakeholders from across the country, adding that all of them had a common goal to ensure that rape, teenage pregnancy and all forms of abuses against woman and girls were completely eliminated.
She, however, admonished everyone in the gathering to join her campaign in ensuring zero tolerance for all forms of victimisations that endanger the lives of women and girls in African societies.
“Any man who rapes or places any form of violence against women and girls is not a real man and doesn’t fit in any decent society. Almost all girls who are raped are most likely to drop out of school. If the girl child is forced into early marriage, the bride price lasts only for two months. But if the girl child is cared for until she finishes her education, the benefit to the parents lasts forever,” she disclosed.
First Lady Fatima also called on Paramount Chiefs, other local authorities and everyone to come together to tackle violence and abuse against women and girls.
The Resident Representative of United Nations Funds for Population Activities, Dr Kim Eva Dickson, said that it was an honour to join the First Lady of Sierra Leone and other First Ladies in Africa in the campaign against all forms of violence against women and girls. She added that UNFPA and UNICEF were working closely to end child marriage, teenage pregnancy and rape, adding that they were committed to supporting the flagship programme of Her Excellency Fatima Bio.
“This is a fight we must do together because it resonates with our activities. UNFPA and UNICEF will do everything humanly possible to support the government of Sierra Leone and this programme,” she said.
Before he officially launched the initiative, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio said he was happy to join hands with the Office of the First Lady and other African First Ladies in what was a rightful fight of social injustices against women and girls.
He confirmed that the presence of other First Ladies was a testament to their willingness to change the future of women and girls in Africa. He commended the move, noting that no matter the situation, rape, teenage pregnancy and all forms of discrimination against women should stop.
President Bio also said that men who raped and put any form of violence against women and girls had no place in society, assuring that the laws of Sierra Leone would ensure that a single rape became the last rape.
“My government will ensure that men who rape have no place in society and also any man who rapes will be jailed forever, so that a single rape becomes the last rape,” he said.
He reiterated that when a child was forced into early marriage or raped, that would almost end their education, adding that that would bring unemployment and make life very difficult for them as they grow old in society. He therefore called on everyone to help in the fight to restore the pride and dignity of women and girls.
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