The Hands Off Our Girls Campaign – National Sensitisation Tour has reached Pujehun District in the south of Sierra Leone.
The campaign initiated by the First lady of Sierra Leone, Her Excellency Fatima Maada Bio, with the full support of her husband , President Bio. The President launched the initiative last year, with other First Ladies from Africa as a means to empower girls and women so they achieve their full potential.
At the Pujehun town hall, Paramount Chief, honourable Matilda Y.L Minah, welcomed the first lady’s entourage. She highlighted Saturday’s program as a milestone event in the history books of her chiefdom and the district as a whole. PC Hon. Minah explained that, the Hands Off Our Girls Campaign is a national campaign and admonished women of the district to embrace the fight for the benefit of their girl child.
“On behalf of my people in this chiefdom, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to H.E Maada Bio and his wife for putting on a resilient fight to restore dignity in our women and girls”, she said.
“As a district, we embrace this fight and vow to bring perpetrators of this barbaric act to book”, she concluded.
Minister of State South, Mohamed Elogima Alie, during his statement, welcomed all an sundry to the gathering he remarked , Sierra Leone is lucky to have a first lady who seeks the interest of her people and does not want a bad name for Sierra Leone in the international community through the news of indiscriminate rape and sexual penetration on little girls.
“The way men presently are urging to destroy our girls seems pathetic”, he said. Adding that, people of Pujehun District must by all means consolidate Madam Fatima Bio’s campaign for a brighter future for the Girl Child, in Pujehun and in Sierra Leone as a whole.
He assures H. E Fatima Bio on the southern people’s support to realising a dream of safe haven for the girl child.
Speaking on behalf of “Save the Children – Salone”, Madam Ramatu Jalloh, greeted the multitude of mothers and Children especially the girl child. She emphasised that, the program is mainly organised for the girls in the district and they (girls) must be happy about that.
“On behalf of Save the Children Sierra Leone, I want to say today is a very important day for the children of Pujehun District”, she said.
“Pujehun District is the district with the highest amount of early marriage, and we all know the implications behind early marriage”, she maintained.
Madam Ramatu Jalloh continue to caution that, which such escalating number of early marriages, the possibility to have a more illiterate and less developed womanhood is eminent.
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affair (MSWGCA) Hon. Baindu Dassama, said, as minister in charge of the welfare and protection of children, she is extremely proud to be in Saturday’s occasion. She said though there are numerous challenges faced by the First Lady in actualising this dream, she and her ministry in the social welfare department have always stood firm in supporting the dream.
Hon. Dassama expressed joy in seeing fellow colleague ministers who have shown zest in actualising the first lady’s dream.
“Fathers and mothers are role models to their kids and must always be”, she said. Adding that parents allow girls to be girls, send them to school and make them useful in society rather than send them for early marriages.
Various speakers spoke on the essence of the campaign and how it will benefit not only the children of Pujehun District, but will in the future provide society with a gallant set of women that can make Sierra Leone and their parents proud.
In her keynote address, first lady Bio defiantly spoke against the negative aspects of sexual offences . She called on the paramount chiefs of the land to incorporate a ban on Early Marriage in their bylaws. She further called on the school girls of Pujehun to resist the approaches of men towards them coming in as Samaritans.
“Girls, your future is in your hands and your dreams of becoming the next President, first lady, lawyer, doctor and minister starts with the firm decision you make today against the urge of material benefit for sex”, she admonished.
“Thanks to you people of Pujehun for believing in His Excellency’s leadership, but am here this day to talk against the persistent horror which befalling our girls”, she noted.
Appreciating the positive contribution of Pujehun people, the first lady on that note took the opportunity to discourage them especially the men from rape against the girl child.
“As my fathers and traditional elderly people, the fight to put to a stop sexual offences is not my fight alone nor his Excellency, we must all join in the fight. I now handover the Hands Off Our Girls Campaign for the Pujehun district chapter to my noble Paramount Chiefs of the district”, she concludes.
The Executive Director of Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy has disclosed that out of the 2,105 cases they monitored across 14 districts, the Western Area has recorded serious increase in sexual related offences.
The Executive Director made the disclosure recently at his CARL head office at Circular Road, Freetown while updating the media on their second edition of “The Justice Watch”, a bulletin produced by CARL funded by UNDP.