Women and Girls continue to face tremendous challenges in our society, hence since assuming office, His Excellency Rtd Brig. Julius Maada Bio has made significant strides in advancing the rights of women and girls in Sierra Leone.
Despite the notable progress, women and girls remain a key focus of the President’s agenda, hence the office of the First Lady continues to serve as an auxiliary arm supporting the government in creating more impact in the lives of Women and Girls.
The ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ flagship campaign of the First Lady is indubitably one of the most successful and recognized girl’s centered project in Africa and it’s inarguably the most talked about campaign both nationally and internationally due to its impacts.
One of the major successful projects under the Hands Off Our Girls campaign is the Free Sanitary Pads Distribution, which has benefited thousands of girls in schools throughout the entire nation, and has opened a frank dialogue between Madam First Lady and her school girls in an attempt to look into the common reasons for sexual harassment, rape, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, sexual abuse against girls and discontinuation of girls in school.
During the launching of the operational plan, the Mayor of the Freetown Municipality, Her Worship Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr recognized the First Lady for championing such a daunting task and for changing the narratives on breaking limitations that forbade conversations around menstruation, which was often deemed a taboo and leave girls limiting themselves in school. She admonished the government and parents to provide water which is the basic and critical in the lives of girl during their menstrual circle.
According to the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, the campaign has influenced the lives of many vulnerable women and girls in the country, while echoing his embassy’s continued support to the office of the First Lady and the people of Sierra Leone.
The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Austin Demby stated “Yesterday was one of the proudest moments for every Sierra Leonean, as we witnessed the Africa Union acknowledgement of Madam Fatima Maada Bio for her leadership and commitment to hygiene and Sanitation not only in Sierra Leone, but throughout the continent of Africa “.He furthered that cultural norms such as stigma, uncleanness, and restrictions of girls’ movements while on their menstrual circle are part of the many reasons that keep girls away from school, which ultimately result to girls skipping school sessions and eventually dropping out of school.
The Minister of Basic and Senior Education, David Moinina Sengeh, shed light on the effort of the First Lady which has been instrumental to the ministry, in ensuring that there is radical inclusion in schools, having girls to benefit fully from the Free Quality Education by providing sanitary towels which is intended to keep them in school.
He disclosed that the government of Sierra Leone through the ministry of Education has sought to provide free Sanitary Pads for girls in the next academic year as promised by the First Lady to the girls.
Delivering a keynote Address to pupils, His Excellency Rtd Brig .Julius Maada Bio, explained that girls and boys must have equal chance in life to thrive, hence his number one manifesto promise was to invest in human capital development, which gets upgraded with time, as he sends an open invitation for everyone to come on board and play their part in ensuring girls have access to equal opportunities like boys.
He thanked the First Lady for her passion and commitment to the women and girls of Sierra Leone by initiating the Hands Off Our Girls campaign, which has been an audacious and inspiring project that has its impact and cliche reached beyond the walls of Sierra Leone.
President Bio highlighted some of the gains his government has made in prioritizing girls Protection, Empowerment and Inclusion, starting from declaring rape as a National Emergency, Amendment of the Sexual Offences act, opening of the first sexual offences model court, the reverse of the ban on pregnant girls in school, and the free quality inclusive education.
In a conversation with her girls, First Lady Fatima Maada Bio, highlighted some of the frank discussions she has been having with girls from different school around the country, ranging from her message on abstinence from boys and men and get the girls to redirect their zest and attention to their studies which is guaranteed to give them a bright and promising future.
She thanked the government for providing another set of Free Sanitary Pads for girls for next academic year, as she is excited to be the messenger that delivers the packs on behalf of the government, while pledging her unreserved support to serving the women and girls of Sierra Leone.
Strategic Communication Division
Office of The First Lady
+232 303 68273