The African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW) has Appointed Sierra Leone’s First Lady, Her Excellency Madam Fatima Maada Bio as African champion for Sanitation and hygiene at a ceremony held at State House in Freetown.
The appointment is in recognition of her tireless efforts in ensuring that women and girls have access to a clean and safe environment, citing her landmark ‘Hand’s Off Our Girls’ campaign and programs, which has also commenced a nationwide distribution of free Sanitary Pads to school-going Girls.
Unveiling Madam Fatima Maada Bio as the African champion for sanitation and hygiene, acting executive secretary Mr. Thomas Banda Said the status of Africa in terms of water, sanitation, and hygiene is not a good story to tell, access to pipe-borne water and proper sanitation and hygiene is still a challenge to over 1.4 billion Africans, in sub-Saharan Africa alone over 400 million people do not have access to safe water service, whilst in sanitation, the situation is even more alarming as 767 million Africans do not have access to basic sanitation service.
Mr. Banda said to effectively combat the situation the Africa Ministers Union has set up a 5 year plan ranging from 2020 to 2024, wherein they are now in the 2nd year of the strategy preparation plan. The African minister’s council thought it fit to identify a champion for sanitation and hygiene in Africa and in the process of identifying a perfect individual the secretariat considers names of high-level individuals that will fit the profile which includes former and serving presidents, diplomats, former and serving first Ladies. The search was narrowed down on First Lady of Sierra Leone H.E Madam Fatima Bio. The first lady was chosen because of her passion for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, adding that this is the group of people that are mostly affected by the lack of sanitation and hygiene.
He notes that it is their sincere belief that the passion with which the first lady approach the hands of our girl campaign will help improve the access to sanitation and hygiene and also her influence as part of the Steering committee of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) will be used to improve access to sanitation and hygiene. He said
:“On behalf of the president of the African minister’s council, it is with pleasure we elect HE Madam Fatima Bio as a champion of sanitation and hygiene in Africa.”
The first lady in her acceptance speech stated that it was an honour for her, Praising her Husband President Bio for being a role model. The recognition is a challenge, she will handle with the support of HE the President. The First Lady said she accepts the honour with open hands to serve Sierra Leone and Africa. For the Africa union to see her and believe in her, she said it is because of her husband HE the president who first believed in her by giving her the opportunity not only as a wife but to serve the people Sierra Leone.
Madam Fatima Bio said hygiene and sanitation are very important and her first appointment will be with the minister of water resources in Sierra Leone to start by making Sierra Leone an example. She promised to do the best of her ability as she is grateful that among all the other people that were highlighted the AU sees her fit enough to step into the foot of great leaders that have been in this position before, the first lady said she is very humble and will serve to the best of her ability.
In his statement, President Dr. Julius Maada Bio said the event was significant because it is a ceremony in which a very passionate Sierra Leonean who has provided leadership by example for causes that have changed attitude and life outcome is been recognized. As a country we are proud of her extensive work throughout Sierra Leone with the Hands off our girl’s project. A project he describes as the most popular in the country.
He added that with the relentless work of the first lady more girls feel safe in schools today and more girls now stay in school and many girls are not forced into early marriage. This he noted was great recognition of the immense potential of girls in fostering sustainable and inclusive development in Sierra Leone.
The president said Sierra Leone is very proud of the first lady’s achievements and her selflessness and committed leadership. He said he looks forward to the Africa union’s formal launching of the Africa sanitation guidelines in June this year.
Madam Fatima Maada Bio is now counted among two other African Leaders, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia who has recognized with such honour since inception of AMCOM in 2002.
Strategic Communication Division
Office of The First Lady