By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
As a way to fighting sexual based violence in Sierra Leone and Africa, Office the First Lady, Purposeful Organization and partners have on Wednesday, May 25, officially launched the 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR).
The launching ceremony took place at the Radission Blu Hotel in Freetown, with the theme ‘Accelerating the Elimination of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Africa.’
The 10th Africa Conference on SHR is a landmark moment bringing together feminist activists, governments, UN agencies, development partners and civil society activists from across the continent to learn, connect and build consensus to end violence against women and girls.
In her keynote address, First Lady Fatmata Maada Bio said the conference was a critical and defining moment for all those who care about ending violence against women and girls in Africa and the world at large.
“I believe that for the fight we are fighting is not for one person, but it is for generation. It is for our girls. And I know if you have meaningful activists who believe that your activism is not only about being on podiums, but actually doing the action,” she said
She noted that she keeps reminding people that whenever they talk about gender based violence in Africa or around the world that, they should not be talking to women only but be engaging men as well, because gender based violence is a two way thing.
“I am thrilled to be a conference patron. I’m not just a patron that sits in my office. I am patron, who does the work,” she said
She said his husband, President Bio, would be a full partner of the event and will support in any way possible, thus noting that the conference would be the best that ACSHR has organized in the country.
She assured that there is a first lady in Sierra Leone that believes in gender equality, and that she was very passionate when it comes to gender issues. ‘I am asking every single union man and woman a feminist to come out and support the conference.’
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Babatunde A. Ahonsi, in his remarks, said after the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current Ukraine-Russia conflict that continues to disrupt their delivery on the sustainable development goals and the 2030 Agenda, Sierra Leone needs a huge conference like ACSHR to be hosted in the country.
He applauded Purposeful under the leadership of Mr. Bah and the government of Sierra Leone on the selection of Sierra Leone to host the conference under the theme ‘Accelerating the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in Africa’.
He said that was imperative as it was estimated that globally one in three women has experienced SGBV in her lifetime.
He said according to the 2019 demographic health survey, Sierra Leone has extremely high rate with 62 percent of women aged 15-49 reporting having experienced physical or psychological violence.
“I am happy to note that the UN system has so far contributed one hundred and Ninety Thousand Dollars ($190,000) towards the conference of which $100,000 is from the UN spotlight initiative,” he said.