United Nations Resident Coordinator (RC) Babatunde Ahonsi last Wednesday disclosed that ahead of the 10th Africa Conference on Sexual and Health Rights to be hosted in Sierra Leone for the first time, the UN System, including the Spotlight Initiative, has so far contributed the sum of US$190,000 toward the Conference.
He applauded UNFPA’s role in coordinating UN support to the Conference as resource mobilization efforts continue, including other technical and logical needs that the UN Country Team will avail to the event, to be held from June 27-July 1 in Freetown.
Speaking at a press launch organized by the Conference’s Host, Purposeful, a feminist hub for girls’ activism at the Radisson Blu in Freetown, Mr Ahonsi said the country needs a massive conference like this after dealing with the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current Ukraine-Russia conflict that continue to disrupt delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.
On behalf of the UN, the RC said he was confident that the monumental event would accelerate national and continental efforts to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence. This, according to him, was imperative as it is estimated that globally one in three women has experienced SGBV in her lifetime.
Referencing the 2019 Demographic and Health Survey, Mr Ahonsi said, “Sierra Leone has extremely high rates, with 62 percent of women aged 15-49 reporting having experienced physical or sexual violence.”
The success of the Conference will have a ripple effect in galvanizing and equipping stakeholders in Sierra Leone and around the continent to fight for lasting change and a more equitable society. Working collectively, Mr Ahonsi emphasized, “we must all join hands to end SGBV and other harmful practices.”
He asked that collectively, a clarion call should be made on all stakeholders to mobilize for actions on three levels – continental action, local action, and people action. This will help secure stronger partnerships, more resources, and smarter solutions to addressing SGBV.
Mr Ahonsi also recognized and thanked the First Lady, Madam Fatima Bio, the Honorary Chief Patron, and Dr Uwem Esiet, the convenor, for what he described as this all-important continental knowledge and experience-sharing platform in Freetown. He applauded Purposeful and the Government of Sierra Leone on the selection of country to host the Conference under the theme “Accelerating the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in Africa.”
The convenor said that since the Conference started 20 years ago, what they were witnessing that day was another level of this journey. He said he was humbled to be in Sierra Leone and looks forward to a historic meeting.
First Lady Fatima Bio said she was proud and thrilled to announce the Purposeful-organized conference as Chief Patron, hoping that this will be a big opportunity for Sierra Leone.
She also disclosed that she has reached out to a number of First Ladies across the continent to attend, and once they confirm, she will report back to the country. Furthermore, she disclosed that Nigerian songstress, Yemi Alade, has confirmed that she will be in Freetown for the programme.
Purposeful’s CEO, Mr Chernor Bah, said that at the Conference, attendees would have the chance to engage with globally renowned speakers and leaders and participate in networking opportunities, coalition-building workshops, wellness and healing sessions, and an entire programme of arts and culture events.
A Youth Pre- Conference will be held on the first two days of the event. The last three days will include 45 carefully curated sessions with the President, Brig (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, expected to grace the occasion.