Friday, February 9th 2024.
The First Lady of Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatima Maada Bio, honored the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association’s Regional Summit with the theme ‘Integrating Young Voices in Governance to Boost Intergenerational Justice in Decision Making’ held at the Bintumani International Conference Centre Freetown, Sierra Leone, which brought together female parliamentarians from across the West African region to discuss issues related to gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the role of women in politics and governance.
Delivering her keynote speech, First Lady Dr. Fatima Maada Bio lamented the neglect and limited consideration given to issues affecting young people, including drug abuse in Africa. She called on ECOWAS to take a stand and address them, emphasizing its significance in contributing to human capital development across the region.
She emphasized the need for Africa, through ECOWAS, to address the youth situation with more attention and consideration. She expressed gratitude to ECOFEPA and the women in Sierra Leone, congratulating Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay on her reign as president of ECOFEPA. The First Lady urged participants to ask questions, raise points, and contribute to the event with passion. She also emphasized the importance of mentoring the next generation of leaders and empowering them with knowledge of leadership and governance.
The First Lady drew attention to the significant impact of illegal mining on the lives of women and girls, leading to environmental consequences and making women widows. She urged ECOWAS to follow recommendations in addressing this pressing issue.
Additionally, on behalf of the President and the people of Sierra Leone, she encouraged attendees from the region to find time to discover historic places in Sierra Leone, emphasizing the importance of preserving cultural landmarks.
Earlier in the program, Senator Biodun Christine Olujime, the first Vice President of ECOFEPA applauded the efforts made by ECOWAS Speaker of Parliament Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis in integrating women and youths into the parliament. This statement, she disclosed was made on behalf of the outgoing president of ECOFEPA.
She expressed gratitude to First Lady Dr. Fatima Maada Bio for her support of women and girls’ protection and empowerment. Additionally, she praised President Julius Maada Bio for enacting the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Law, which has helped Sierra Leone improve its ranking in female representation globally. Furthermore, she thanked the Sierra Leone House of Parliament, urging young people to take a stand and be at the center of decision-making processes in the sub-region and encouraging them to use the platform to share ideas, values, contributions, and questions.
Emmanuel Chea, the Chairman of the West African Youth Assembly emphasized the significance of empowering young people. This underscores the recognition of the pivotal role that youth, especially young women, play in shaping the future of the region. Empowering the youths of the ECOWAS region through education, economic opportunities, and political participation is crucial for sustainable development and progress.
Dr. Isata Mahoi, Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, reiterated President Bio’s unwavering dedication to championing women’s and girls’ empowerment. She cited the enactment of gender equality and women’s empowerment laws as evidence of the president’s dedication to advancing gender equality. This demonstrates a “HE FOR SHE” approach, where male leaders actively support gender equality initiatives, and a “TALK N DO” attitude, she stated, indicating tangible actions to back up rhetoric. She expressed gratitude for the substantial number of women participating in parliament and serving as ministers and deputy ministers. This acknowledgement reflects a positive trend towards gender inclusivity in political leadership roles, which is essential for ensuring diverse perspectives and addressing the needs of all citizens.
Hon. Sidi Mohammed Tunis, the ECOWAS Speaker of Parliament, expressed concern over political instabilities within the region and their adverse impact on women and girls. Political instability can exacerbate existing gender disparities and hinder progress towards gender equality. He also pledged further support for ECOFEPA and called for establishing networks for growth across member regions. This demonstrates a commitment to addressing challenges faced by women and girls through collaborative efforts at a regional level.
Awards of recognition were conferred on Her Excellency Dr. Fatima Maada Bio for championing the protection and empowerment of women and girls, followed by group photos.
Strategic Communications Division,
Office of the First Lady,
Republic of Sierra Leone.