As SL commemorates UN Day against sexual exploitation… First Lady Fatima Bio encourages survivors to be strong

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First Ladies of Sierra Leone, Nigeria & Angola taking pictures during the event

By Yusufu S. Bangura

“I want to thank everyone of you that are here.And I want to say to the survivors, please, you cannot continue to be victims, you are not the victims, you are the survivors and the people who did what they did to you are the cowards and they are the ones who should be ashamed. It is not you that should be ashamed. Abusing a woman is one thing, but abusing a woman and knowing full well what you’re doing, and you think you get away with it?  No, that is wrong. I want you to know that the Government of Sierra Leone is with you, and we stand with you because we’re going to do everything humanly possible to make sure you heal,” said First Lady Fatima Bio.

First Lady Fatima Bio was giving the welcome address at the commemoration of the United Nations World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Sexual Exploitation, Violence, and Abuse of women and girls.

Fatima Maada Jabie Bio said the United Nations declares November 18 for leaders to exclusively raise awareness about preventing and healing women and girls from child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence, which symbolises solidarity and a shared commitment to addressing those critical issues.

“We gathered here today because we wanted to stand in solidarity with our rape victims, women who were suffering sexual gender based violence. We also want to stand in solidarity with women who are suffering from SGBV silently, or they can’t come forward. We want to say we are with you on this fight. Together, we will make the differences that we are supposed to make in our nation,” she reiterated.

She recalled that in the last five years, President Bio has demonstrated what true leadership is all about, because he has not only given women the opportunity to thrive, but he had championed everything that involves women issues in the country and globally, and that by championing November 18, he had given women the voice to speak.

“President Bio is a man that believes in women, and a man that believes that women should be given the space to try. As your First Lady of this nation, I believe that I have proven that time and again because we don’t work for politics, we work for humanity,” she said.

She said they wanted to make November 18 as a global world day, therefore it was not only Sierra Leone that commemorated the day, but it was being commemorated globally.

 She said November 18 is a global day for every one across the globe and thanked organisations that are providing care for survivals.

She said they wanted survivors to be healed and that they will continue to support them by making sure that when they leave by the end of the weekend, when they go back to their houses, their communities, they will go as free women and say they are not victims anymore, but Sierra Leoneans, who now have the power to speak.

She further encouraged them not to feel dejected and that they should not feel like they are victims because they move from victims and become people in society.

She drew an analogy from Madame Sara of Holland who was a victim, but has transformed herself from being a victim to being a survivor and now being an implementer.

She called on victims to pick a leaf out Sara’s book and be women who are suffering in silence, yet   they stand proud with their heads high and be determined that men cannot continue to make them victims for the rest of their lives.

The Government of Sierra Leone, together with the First Lady of Nigeria and Angola, last Friday, commemorated the United Nations World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Sexual Exploitation, Violence, and Abuse of women and girls.

The United Nations declares November 18 “World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence.

In her own speech, the First Lady of Angola, Dr. Ana Dias Lourenco, emphasised the urgency in addressing child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence, urging concerted efforts to support and protect vulnerable children.

Also, the First Lady of the Federal of Nigeria, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, echoed similar sentiments, emphasising the importance of proactive measures, education, awareness, and advocacy in combating child sexual exploitation.

The Minister of Social Welfare, Melrose Kaminty expressed solidarity with survivors, shedding light on the country’s efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence, including President Bio’s commitment to declare rape a public health emergency.

Highlighting the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 and the establishment of a Sexual Model Court, she called for collective collaboration to reduce the global crisis.

She urged the use of technology to prevent online and offline offences and improves the criminal justice system.

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