January 26, 2019
By Yusufu S. Bangura
A group of Civil Society Organisations, including Child Welfare Society (CWS), Women Against Violence and Exploitation Society (WAVES), Equality Now and IHRDA, has informed the media that the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice would on March 4, 2019,hears a case they had file against the government of Sierra Leone for banning pregnant girls from attending school .
“We wish to inform you that on the 4th of March 2019, the ECOWAS Court of Justice will finally be hearing the case filed by the above child-focused organisations against the government of Sierra Leone. The case will be heard in Abuja-Nigeria,” the release reads.
The civil society group had filed a case at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, challenging government’s decision to ban pregnant girls from attending schools.
According to the release, in April 2015, the government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, imposed a ban on visibly pregnant girls attending mainstream schools and writing their examinations, just before schools re-opened, following the Ebola outbreak. Since then, this ban has been an official government policy.
The organisations, which have been championing the rights of adolescent girls, said in their statement that they remained concerned by the high rates of sexual violence in the county and the impact it has on women and girls.
The CSOs expressed delight at President Julius Bio’s recent declaration of rape and sexual violence as a national emergency, thus noting that they were looking forward to a time when all women and girls would be free from sexual violence.
The release notes that the CSOs were also anticipating that someday none of the women would be left out from meaningful social and economic development in Sierra Leone, given that they form more than half of the population.
The joint statement says the vast majority of the pregnant school girls were victims of sexual violence; with a total of 8,505 rape cases as at 2018.
“There is therefore urgent need for justice for our girls, and we are looking forward to them finally having their day in court. We are finally looking forward to our girls not being left behind by their own country,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Executive Director, Moses Mambu, thanked President Bio for putting the issues of women and girls in the forefront since he came into office in April 2018.
He said they and their partners were of the conviction that a set of women and girls have been left out in all development agenda, especially education.
He said after the government banned the pregnant pupils from school in 2015, they promised to create a platform for them to write their exams, but such has never been a dream come true.
He said they were of the belief that pregnancy is not a communicable disease and that girls must have the opportunity to attend school even in their pregnancy status.