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‘Don’t stigmatise, embrace us’

- says Ebola survivor

March 6, 2015 By Regina Pratt

This year’s International Women’s Day will be celebrated on a low key on the theme, “Make it happen for Ebola virus disease survivors and families, especially women and girls”. The event takes place on Monday, 9 March with a meeting for Ebola survivors at the Miatta conference hall, Youyi building.

Speaking ahead of the celebration and during a conference hosted for Ebola survivors at the YWCA new hall yesterday, Chairperson Fatu Sesay, who is also a survivor, urged the public against stigmatising survivors, but to embrace them.

“Don’t stigmatise us, embrace us,” said Ms. Sesay, an employee of the Central Bank, who added that being diagnosed with the Ebola virus comes with many challenges. She thanked the organisers for giving her the opportunity to talk to other survivors.

She said Ebola is a destructive disease which has made women and girls more vulnerable. She thanked the government and the international community for their support, and the initiative of hosting survivors on International Women’s Day.

“I commend the medical support staff and send our heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives during the fight,” she said, adding that early detection and reporting is vital to survival.

Narrating her ordeal to Concord Times, Ms. Sesay said she was taken to Kenema for a voluntary test, adding: “I did not get any complications, neither did I vomit or get any form of diarrhea.”

She said the conference is significant as survivors would regard her as a role model, and thanked management and staff of the Bank of Sierra Leone for their immense support during her time in hospital in Kenema.

She revealed that she had since resumed work at the bank on 3 November, 2014.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Alhaji Moijueh Kaikai, said International Women’s Day raises issues affecting women, noting that this year’s celebration is dedicated to Ebola survivors to voice out their constraints.

“Be brave and say it out especially those that are affecting you,” he urged and encouraged them to established an association in order that non-survivors would benefit on their behalf.

UN Women’s Baindu Massaquoi, who did a presentation on the multi-sector impact assessment of gender dimension of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, said women and girls are disproportionately affected by the virus, adding that their role in the family makes them highly vulnerable to infection.

Ms. Massaquoi said pregnant women and lactating mothers were afraid to go to hospital at the height of the outbreak, while nurses were also scared to attend to them.

Deputy Director of Gender, Goodie Sowonie, revealed that about 56.7% of survivors are women and girls and that some have experienced health complications even after their discharge from treatment centres.

She said Ebola orphans are in need of livelihood support as some of them are school going children. She called on women’s organisations to support the International Women’s Day celebration.

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