15-year-old addresses world leaders on challenges in Sierra Leone


October 14, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Mariam Samai, 15, a pupil of the Annie Walsh Memorial Senior Secondary School, has returned to Freetown after attending the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. She was sponsored by Save the Children Sierra Leone.

In a press conference yesterday, she told pressmen how she met world leaders in New York and told them about the challenges girls grapple with in the country.

Ms. Samai said children from across the world attended the session of the General Assembly and met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Mogens Lykketoft, President of the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama and various world leaders. She said they also had audience with Madam Martha Santos, Special United Nations Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children, and Chief Executive Officers of Save the Children International from United Kingdom, United States of America and Norway.

She revealed that at a roundtable meeting with world leaders, she had the opportunity to explain the state and status of children in Sierra Leone and the many challenges they face, including education, healthcare, and gender equality for girls. She said she narrated the ordeals of children both during the 11 years civil and the outbreak of Ebola in the country.

She further told world leaders how the Ebola outbreak forced children to miss school for a year, with many girls getting pregnant while hundreds were among the thousands killed by the deadly virus. She said the controversial ban by the government of pregnant girls to return to school to write their examinations was also highlighted to world leaders.

“I also advocated to the CEOs of Save the Children International to help children who are victims of the flood that took place on 16 September, 2015, and their responses were that they would take it up with the government and see what they could do to help the situation of those children,” she said.

She disclosed that a UN Ambassador promised to visit Sierra Leone this November on a fact finding mission after hearing her presentation at the roundtable meeting.

Joanna Tom-Kargbo, Advocacy and Campaign Manager at Save the Children Sierra Leone, said they supported children to attend the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a bid to give voice to children and ensure their rights are respected and protected.

She said since April this year they had been training and encouraging children to voice out problems affecting them and identify their need, adding that they had brought into the country 20 children from other countries to share their challenges with local children.

From 24 September to 6 October this year, world leaders, including President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, met at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The meeting was historic both for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations in 1945, after two destructive world wars, and to mark the end of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, signed in 2000, and transiting to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals comprise 17 goals and their indicators. The goals were debated, agreed, adopted, committed to and signed by 193 world leaders to end poverty, provide access to quality basic education for boys and girls, end child death, provide clean water and sanitation, end inequality and improve climate change.