President Maada Bio and First Lady Fatima Maada Bio acknowledged and appreciated the efforts of various stakeholders as Sierra Leone celebrates the landmark success of adopting Resolution A/76/L.80 entitled “International Cooperation on Access to Justice and Remedies for Survivors of Sexual Violence”. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 2nd September 2022. This side event was held on the margins of the United Nations 77th Assembly at Park Lane Hotel New York on Tuesday 20th September.
His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone announced, during the general debates of the high-level week of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, his directive to the Mission of Sierra Leone to sponsor a stand-alone resolution in the General Assembly on International Cooperation on Access to Justice for Survivors of Sexual Violence. Since then, Sierra Leone and Japan successfully championed the draft resolution, alongside the 80 Member State, which culminated in the presentation and adoption of the Resolution.
Her Excellency Dr. Fatima Maada Bio, organised other First Ladies in Africa to stage a peaceful protest against rape on the streets of Freetown a day after the lunch of the “Hands off our girls” campaign in December 2018. This event was to be a benchmark to make the world know that the sigma and taboo surrounding the issue of rape, will no longer be in the shadows, but will be tackled in the open. It is an uncomfortable topic, but when it comes to protecting our girls, First Lady Fatima Maada Bio made it clear, the issue must be tackled head on.
The Side event was moderated by the Honourable Princess Bio (Deputy Minister for Health and Sanitation ), she gave an overview of the great strides Sierra Leone has made in combating Sexual and Gender Based Violence with emphasis on rape. In his welcome address Ambassador Fanday Turay ( The Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations) said the mission is ready to facilitate the implementation of the resolution that was passed on the 2nd of September 2022. He appreciated members states present for their support and co-sponsorship.
Ms. Amanda Nyuyen, CEO and founder of Rise Foundation in her statement, gave a touching speech about how her body was a traumatic crime scene after she was raped. The injustice she suffered and meeting with other survivors (Over a million wrote to her ) motivated her to do something positive. For 6 years she campaigned for change but the movement was weaponised when the Rise organisation met He-for-she champion President Julius Maada Bio. She said President Bio said he will ensure something was done about it and true to his word, the resolution is now a reality.
Ambassador Osuga Takeshi, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations in his statement dedicated the resolution to survivors of sexual violence. He went on to say “I thank and commend the strong political leadership of President Maada Bio. He made special mention of Ambassador Finda Senesi of the permanent mission in Sierra Leone that worked tirelessly with his team.
Her Excellency Mrs. Monica Geingos, the First Lady of the Republic of Namibia and President of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), opened her statement by bringing to the fore, President Bio’s initiative for Risk-Free-Motherhood. Intimating people sometimes forget how risky motherhood can be especially in the wrong circumstance. She congratulated President Maada Bio for his bold and decisive leadership in the move towards criminalising child marriage and decriminalising SGBV based abortions. She was full of admiration for First Lady Fatima Bio’s tenacity, focus and bold leadership .
Her Excellency Dr. Fatima Maada Bio praised the President’s belief in nation building through women’s empowerment . This resolution is a continuation of the process in the fight against SGBV. She was full of praise for the important role Japan played and also special mention of Ambassador Finda Senesi in the process. First Lady also appreciated the UK and Namibia for their unflinching support. First Lady concluded by soliciting support for the declaration of 18th November as the ” World day for the elimination and prevention of child abuse, and the protection and healing of child dignity. She also acknowledge the support of Africell Impact Foundation .
His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio in his Keynote address, congratulated everyone for supporting a good cause. Protecting our women is paramount as they are our mothers and equal partners in development. He continued by saying to rape is awful, and he took on the responsibility to do something about it both in the national and international stage. President is happy he took up the challenge to find justice for rape victims. There must be laws in place to protect our daughters . He made special mention of Ms. Amanda Nyuyen CEO of Rise Foundation for her tenacity. It is a just cause, and as President he is ready to fight, making it clear that when he fights he wins. He concluded by appreciating everyone that made adopting the resolution a success.
Ceremonial Sierra Leone shawls were given to show appreciation to some members, they were decorated President Bio. The informal networking session continued till late.
His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio has since been initiating and rigorously supporting local and international reforms to ensure access to justice and therapies for survivors of sexual assault:
1. Declared a National Emergency Against Rape and Other Sexual Violence Crimes in a bid to mobilize the required resources
2. The review and strengthening of the Sexual Offences Act fortified with tougher consequences
3. A Special Model Court to prosecute perpetrators of sexual crimes was also established to keep our women and children safe and make Sierra Leone inhabitable for sexual offenders.
4. Ongoing construction of a multi-million-dollar Centre of Excellence . being built with zero financial burden on the Government of Sierra Leone, which will serve as a one-stop-center for increased access to justice and treatment for survivors of sexual assault.
Strategic Communications Division
Office of The First Lady.