Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 May 2021:
Yesterday, Thursday 27 May 2021, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) formally honoured the work of Sierra Leone’s First Lady – Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, as an African Champion promoting girls’ sanitation and hygiene, as well as her ‘Hands Off Our Girls Campaign’ for which she has become well known across the country.
The championship honour is in recognition of her efforts in ensuring that women and girls of Sierra Leone have access to clean and safe environment, in particular, the nationwide distribution of free sanitary pads to girls in various schools.
AMCOW was formed in 2002 in Abuja, Nigeria, primarily to promote cooperation, security, social and economic development and poverty eradication among member states, through the effective management of the continent’s water resources and provision of water supply.
Sierra Leone’s First Lady Fatima Maada Bio is the third person in Africa to have received the honour after Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia.
Acting Executive Secretary of AMCOW, Thomas Banda, extended warm fraternal greetings from the secretariat and noted that the status of Africa in terms of water and sanitation is not something good to write home about.
He added that access to safe drinking water and safe sanitation and hygiene services still present huge challenges to many of the over 400 million people on the African continent.
“It is in this regard that AMCOW Secretariat initiated efforts to identify, engage and nominate a high-level champion for sanitation and hygiene. The search kept narrowing down until we landed at the profile of Her Excellency, the First Lady of Sierra Leone,” he stated.
Mr Banda said they are looking forward to working with Madam Fatima Bio to strengthen their advocacy efforts and to ensure that everyone around the continent has access to good sanitation and hygiene, including menstrual health and hygiene services, and towards ending open defecation in Africa.
In her brief acceptance speech, the First Lady said she is positively overwhelmed by the African Union’s recognition of her work, which she is doing very passionately. She thanked President Bio for not only being her husband, but for also being her adviser, mentor and for believing in her as a woman.
“I want to say thank you, Your Excellency, for your support. I will succeed only if you continue to give me that support. For Africa to see me and the work I am doing to serve humanity, it is because of the free space you have given me to work,” she noted.
Mrs. Bio further said that hygiene and satiation remain a serious challenge and in need of urgent attention. She therefore said she will continue to work with all stakeholders to not only see Sierra Leone become a clean and hygienic country, but Africa as a whole.
“Thank you very much African Ministers’ Council on Water, AMCOW, for this recognition, thank you my team from the Office of the First Lady for your support, it is because of you that I have the zeal and oxygen to do more work that has led to this achievement,” she concluded.