On November 18, 2023, Her Excellency Dr. Fatima Maada Bio organised a special healing prayer session at Winner’s Chapel International Church and generously offered scholarships to all survivors through the Maada and Fatima Foundation.
This initiative harks back to November 14, 2022, when the United Nations declared November 18 as a World Day aimed at ending child sexual exploitation and violence bringing hope and healing to survivors.
The resolution, championed by Sierra Leone’s First Lady Dr. Fatima Maada Bio, Nigeria and backed by over 120 countries, was embraced with unanimous approval, marked by a resounding gavel at the assembly.
Speaking at the event, former Sierra Leone representative to the United Nations, Amb. Finday Turay, highlighted the importance of the event and noted that the United Nations declared November 18 as the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence. The resolution, which was sponsored by Sierra Leone and Nigeria and co-sponsored by more than 120 countries, was adopted by consensus.
He noted that UN World Day on the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence, and Abuse is dedicated to raising awareness about this grave issues aiming at mobilising individuals, communities, and governments to take action in preventing and addressing these forms of harm to children. He explains that the day underscores the importance of protecting children from exploitation and abuse, promoting their well-being, and fostering an environment where they can grow up free from violence.
In her brief but purposeful statement, Dr. Jennifer Wortham of Global Collaborative, a survivor-led network of child advocacy organisations that leads a global advocacy campaign to support the adoption of the day at the 77th UN General Assembly, describes Her Excellency Fatima Bio is a “pearl of Africa” who has been championing the cause of protecting women and girls. She noted that this day should be remembered as a call to action in encouraging countries and communities to implement measures to prevent child sexual exploitation and provide support for victims’ healing and recovery, adding that the UN uses these designated days to draw attention to critical issues and promote international collaboration in addressing them.
In his statement, the country’s Chief Justice, His Lordship Desmond B. Edwards, cited that the creation of this international day is a groundbreaking milestone in increasing global awareness of the horrific prevalence of sexual violence against children and mobilising action to prevent violence and support healing and justice for survivors, noting that there couldn’t be any healing without justice. And therefore, it was revealed that the Judiciary is posing to create three more sexual offences model courts in the provinces, starting with Kailahun in January 2024, in fast-tracking cases of sexual offences.
In her statement, the First Lady of the Republic of Angola, Her Excellency Ana Dias Lourenco, describes Dr. Fatima Bio as a dedicated advocate for children’s rights. Adding that, her unwavering commitment to fostering a safer and more secure environment for the young girls has garnered admiration both locally and internationally. She revealed that Angola has made significant strides in combating child sexual exploitation and violence and therefore noted that, as leaders, they have the obligation to safeguard the innocence of children and provide a safer ground for them. This is a testament to the positive change that can be achieved when nations unite in the fight against child exploitation and abuse.
On her part, the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Her Excellency Senator Oluremi Tinubu, recalls her first visit to the country forty years ago, and her coming to Freetown again seems like a homecoming. She lauded HE Fatima Bio as a woman of grace and purpose, stressing that her dedication to addressing the root causes of child exploitation and violence is evident in her initiatives which aimed at providing support for victims and implementing preventive measures for young girls. Maintaining that recognising the alarming rates of child sexual exploitation and abuse, Dr. Fatima Bio has dedicated her efforts to raising awareness and implementing initiatives that provide support for victims and preventive measures for vulnerable girls and women.
She underscores the importance of protecting our children online in today’s digital age, maintaining that the internet offers numerous opportunities for learning and socialisation, but it also presents potential risks and dangers stressing that online safety for our children is a shared responsibility among parents, educators, and the broader community.
In her address, First Lady Dr. Fatima Maada, known for her strong ties with charitable and faith-based organisations, believes that mobilising the community through places of worship is essential for the success of child protection initiatives.
In addition to her work on the ground, Dr. Fatima Bio used her platform to advocate for policy changes that strengthen legal frameworks for addressing gender-based violence. Her efforts include pushing for stricter laws, improved law enforcement, and better support systems for survivors combining advocacy, education, and policy initiatives, which aims at creating a comprehensive and sustainable approach to combating gender-based violence in Sierra Leone.
In conclusion of her statement, Her Excellency Dr . Fatima Maada Bio , openly announces a university scholarship to survivors amounting to 70 for a period of 3 years, 40 to vocational education, and many more to start up a business at the event.
As part of Her continued support, Her Excellency extends Her Helping Hands on behalf of the Julius Maada Bio and Fatima Maada Bio Foundation with the tune of 100,000 million old notes to 7 organisations that protect women and girls in the country.
At the historic event, the invited global Nigerian gospel artist, Madam Sinach, was the star performer, which helped to bring hope to all survivors of rape victims in the country and around the world.
Strategic Communications Division
Office of the First Lady
Republic of Sierra Leone.