By Alpha Kamara -NYU Alumni
Sierra Leone’s First lady Fatima Maada Bio has told colleague African First Ladies of her commitment to reduce sexual and gender-based violence in Sierra Leone. She made the comments on the margins of the 77th U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Fatima Bio congratulated Monica Geingos First Lady of Namibia as the new President of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) and called on the organization to focus on gender issues. OAFLAD is an advocacy organization where First Ladies of Africa seek to leverage their unique positions to advocate for policies that make health services accessible and laws that boost women and youth empowerment.
“As first Ladies, our first responsibility is to protect our women and children. Let us concentrate on containing and eradicating gender-based violence.
” Personally, it will be very difficult for me to divert my attention to any other thing right now because I have a campaign that has gone beyond my country, it’s a global campaign with a very simple slogan ‘Hands of Our Girls’ the campaign is to advocate for everything that makes women safe and empowers them,” Fatima said.
Mrs. Bio recalled that last year she put together a resolution to have access to justice for all rape victims around the world and the United Nations passed it on the 2nd of September 2022, Issues that concerns women needs to be prioritized, adding, as she will be meeting the United Nations leadership, she asks them November 18 to be declared as a day that will allow rape victims to congregate and communicate.
” When we talk about rape victims, there are various categories, for me early marriage in Africa is a clandestine way of legalizing rape. Early marriage is having sex with an underage child who is forced to be in the marriage. Since covid-19 began with the associated restrictions, many women were victims of Sexual and Gender Based violence in Africa, but we are not talking about SGBV issues in Africa for the fear that it will cost our husband’s election”
” I’m asking my sisters to take this as a global campaign. All African First Ladies should channel their voices in one direction, and we will be heard. We will get them to listen when we start the work on our own. We need to look beyond traditional funding sources and engage organizations that believe in gender issues and want to change the world, using their organization,” She argued.
First Lady went on to say, social media is a strong ally when it comes to promoting the agenda of OFLAD and getting international recognition and support. ” You will not be able to solve your problems in your bedroom, so we must use social media wisely, to promote the African First Ladies campaign, a campaign that matters, a campaign that will touch people’s hearts, a campaign that people would believe in,” Fatima added.