The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio led her Kono people into a strategic and beautiful peaceful protest march laced with pomp, pageantry and traditional displays in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
Mrs. Bio also used the event organised by a national non-governmental organisation called Women in Development – Sierra Leone (WIND-SL) to re-echo and celebrate the women’s empowerment credentials of President Bio.
In Koidu City on Tuesday March 8 2022, the First Lady led a three-miles procession of women, girls and stakeholders from various works of life through various major streets including Kainkordu Road, Hospital Road onto the Koidu Community Field.
The procession served as a platform to raise awareness and protest against various biases affecting women and girls.
At the jam-packed community field, the First Lady, an indigene of Kono District, was treated into a beautiful traditional welcome with ‘innocent’ young girls processing with calabash accompanied by welcoming native chants and songs by traditional women.
Mrs. Bio was later crowned by the people of Kono as the Champion for Sustainable Women’s Empowerment.
In welcoming the First Lady, the Mayor of Koidu City described the occasion as historic, pointing out that it was Kono is blessed to have produced yet another First Lady.
“It is also a blessing for us to have a First Lady who is the first to celebrate International Women’s Day with her people,” he pointed out, while calling on all stakeholders to continue to support the women of Sierra Leone in line with President Bio’s agenda.
Chairperson of the program, Mrs. Sitta Kaikai saluted the First Lady for joining her people in a procession that spanned over three miles under the hot burning sun.
She re-echoed the call for gender parity in Sierra Leone.
“If women are empowered the nation will develop,” she asserted.
The Chairman of Council of Paramount Chiefs, PC Tamba E.T Foryoh welcomed Mrs. Bio with pride and pledged their support towards women’s empowerment. He noted that women can do better when given positions of trust.
The Chairlady of the Wives of Paramount Chiefs saluted the wife of former president Isata Jabbie Kabbah for honoring the invitation to join her sister the First Lady and all other women to celebrate womanhood.
Delivering her keynote address, First Lady Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio expressed appreciation to her people for such grand welcome, noting how proud she is to be a Kono woman.
She extolled the women’s empowerment credentials of the Maada Bio led Government of Sierra Leone while reading out an endless list of names of women appointed by the President to serve in various leadership capacities as Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Ministers and Deputy Ministers among others.
The First Lady noted that Sierra Leone joined the rest of the world on March 8 to celebrate what she described as the sacrifices, bravery, resilience and milestones of super women.
“The International Women’s Day is also being commemorated annually on this date to raise awareness and intensify protests against all forms of violence and discrimination against women. It is a day set aside to commemorate the social, political, cultural and socioeconomic achievements of women in the world. In summary, it’s a day to remind the world of the special and enviable place of women and to re-echo the need for gender parity,” she explained, while saluting bravery of countless women of substance being produced by Sierra Leone.
“The bravery and steadfastness of our superwomen continue to inspire generations. And for that we salute them,” she stated.
Womanhood, she said, symbolises power, strength, unity and above all development.
“It is great that our country Sierra Leone continues to enjoy unity in diversity among the women folks as evident in this gathering comprising of strong women from different political, tribal, religious and regional backgrounds. We only need to do more in the area of women supporting women for a prosperous nation.”
According to her, the global theme for this year’s commemoration: “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow” perfectly aligns with His Excellency’s vision and strategic actions geared towards women’s empowerment as contained in the government’s Medium Term National Develoopment Plan and evident in bold steps being taken in that direction.
“My husband, His Excellency, the President believes that Sierra Leone can only achieve the development we all so desire when we recognise women as partners in development, thus the strategic and brave actions towards women’s empowerment since he took up office in 2018, including the appointment of several women in top positions including cabinet”.
She higlighted various strategic and concrete steps being taken by the government to achieve the goal of a world free of violence, discrimination and gender stereotyping.
“Nowadays, women in Sierra Leone enjoy more freedom, protection, space and respect than any other time in the history of Sierra Leone. More women are being appointed and supported to serve in decision making and positions of trust as a demonstration of the President’s seriousness towards solving issues affecting women”.
“The Gender Empowement Act that seeks to legally grant women at least 30% quota in governance and various works of life is soon to be passed into law by the Parliament of Sierra Leone”
“Under the leadership of Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio, Sierra Leone declared a national emergency on rape and all sexual related offences in a brave move to protect the women of this country from all forms of violence and to guarantee their freedom”
“The government took this a step further by establishing is special model court to prosecute sexual related offences and ensure that perpetrators are speedily brought to book”.
“The Sexual Offences Act has also been reviewed and strengthened with stiff penalties and lengthy jail terms for sex offenders, all in a bid to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for the women of Sierra Leone”
“Government is currently investing 22% of the national budget to support free and quality education, with some two million five hundred pupils, mostly females, benefiting from an initiative that guarantees a brighter and better future for them”.
“The free health care for women and children, is among the deliberate actions being taken by the Bio led Government of Sierra Leone to keep our women healthy and alive”.
“Just last week, the government, through the Ministry of Social Welfare hosted a national conference to intensify more actions against the menace of trafficking in person even though the government has been taking realistic steps to minimise the act especially over the last four years already”.
“It is indeed a special privilege and honor for me to be given the unique opportunity by His Excellency the President to lead his Hands Off Our Girls Campaign which has recorded a significant milestone in protecting women and girls in our country. The Office of the First Lady under my leadership has succeeded in raising awareness at national and international levels on the need to protect and preserve the rights of women and girls. Today, the awareness level in the country that girls below the ages of 18 (Fatima Bio Girls) are not sex, rape or wife materials, is more prominent than any other time in our Nation’s history. Our flagship Hands Off Our Girls campaign is reducing teenage pregnancy, discouraging rape and early marriages and retaining more girls in schools”.
“The hygiene of our girls is also of paramount importance to us. Our Sanitary Pads initiatives is not only keeping our girls clean and healthy but is equally keeping them in schools”.
“My office is also embarking on an ambitious ultra-modern hospital project that will immensely support the medical needs of our women and children”.
“My husband believes in women. He knows women can do better when given the required opportunity and support, which explains why he enjoys the enviable position of the champion of women”.
The First Lady ended her statement with a clarion call for women to speak up and step up.
“We will only succeed in breaking the vicious circle of bias against women when we speak with one voice. Women supporting women should be the new mantra,” she ended.
Strategic Communications Division
Office of The First Lady
+232 303 68273