New York, USA, Tuesday 19 September 2023 – Sierra Leone’s First Lady Dr Fatima Maada Bio has been appointed Champion of UNAIDS, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the certificate of appointment presented to her by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The certificate of appointment reads: “This is to certify that Her Excellency Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone is appointed as a UNAIDS Champion for the empowerment and engagement of adolescent girls and young women”.
Dr Fatima Bio on Tuesday brought together colleague First Ladies, international organisations and civil society organisations at her United Nations General Assembly side event titled “Lifting the Voices of Survivors” to make a strong case for victims.
The event was hosted first, to say thank you to the United Nations and international community for supporting Sierra Leone’s clarion call for victims of sexual abuse to be recognised by all nations.
It could be recalled that on 7 November last year during the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, the UN unanimously declared 18 November as “World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence” following a resolution sponsored by Sierra Leone and co-sponsored by Nigeria.
Dr Fatima Bio recalled that the event was similarly held to sustain the global partnership and to reassure victims and survivors that they were not alone.
The side event was honoured with the presence of President Julius Maada Bio, First Lady of Turkey Emine Erdoğan, First Lady of Namibia Monica Geingos and current President of Organisation of African First Ladies for Development, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Jennifer Wortham of Global Collaborative, Islamic Relief USA, Council of Europe, Vatican, World Childhood Foundation and World Vision.
Moderated by Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr Michael Imran Kanu, the side event received an avalanche of tributes to President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio for initiating the International Day memorial and for promising to continue representing the voices of victims. Video testimonies of victims offered a stark reminder of the horrors.
In her keynote statement, First Lady Fatima Bio urged that preventing child sexual abuse required global collaboration and that the 18 November World Day commemoration should provide that platform.
Turkish First Lady, Emine Erdoğan, noted how the words “child” and “abuse” were horrifically paradoxical. She demanded that: “We must break the dirty hands before they reach our children”, and further stated that “the best place to Protect a child is a loving and safe family environment.”
As a major co-sponsor of the resolution championed by President Julius Maada Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio, Nigeria also paid tribute to the strong and empathic leadership provided by Sierra Leone which had crystallised into an international day commemoration for victims. “Nigeria is proud to partner with SL on this initiative,” the statement noted.
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