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.
Gorillas in the Mist – It was early dawn and out of the retreating shadows appeared a green Bus covered with SLPP stickers that said; ” NEW DIRECTION” and “HANDS OFF OUR GIRLS.” The Bus crawled forward like a snail,sputtered and coughed like an ailing chain smoker trying to catch his breath;There were young girls staring through its dusty windows in despair as it panted and struggled to climb a small hill tucked away in the depths of a vast green expanse of virgin forest that was the natural habitat of wildlife. Finally, the worst happened – the fears of the girls became a reality – In the middle of nowhere the SLPP Bus broke down,and the annoying noise was replaced by an eerie silence that was interrupted every now and then by the chirping and singings of forest birds.
The SLPP driver a very stout fellow with a bushy head jumped out with a tall lanky one that resembled an old ostrich; As they stared into the engine the young girls started shouting,crying and complaining; “We want to go home now; take us Home Now.” The driver became angry and when the noise from the girls became too much for them to bear they removed their belts and started mercilessly beating the young girls; A few of them were able to escape through the back door of the vehicle but the two men chased them down and started walloping them in anger; The cries of the girls echoed through the forests and it was then a Troop of Gorillas in the mist having a feast jumped up in anger and came to their rescue. The Troop surrounded the two men calmly like Shaolin kung fu monks about to teach lawbreakers a hard lesson; The two men started crying for help; (lol)
Then a Giant gorilla signalled to the girl to run and run she did; Then….all hell broke loose – The two SLPP men were beaten into a pulp, until they ran away naked and locked themselves in the van for fear of their lives; The Giant gorilla among them kept on beating his chest as he proceeded to ripped off the “Hands Off Our Girls Sticker” on the van, and pointed a warning finger at them – It was telling them to “Hands Off Our Girls.” (lol) Folks,that’s the story as it was told to me – That’s the way the strange story goes.(lol)
The AU recognizing anyone is not bad. Recognizing the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone for what the AU thinks is a good job according to their decision panel, is fine with me. But what the AU failed to realise is that the First Lady’s “Hands Off our Girls project” was engulfed by a financial scandal and stuck in a financial mud awaiting investigation. That’s the problem, decision makers of the AU. Am I right to say that the AU has outlived its usefulness? The AU needs reform to help them make serious and useful decisions in recognising anyone. God bless the consolidated funds of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
“Life is a changing dream to the thinker”. Every thing and every thought contains in itself the form of its opposite as it is manifested here in this article. Yesterday, the first lady of Sierra Leone proposed a plan to help solve the problems of hygiene for our daughters, sisters and the future leaders and leaders wives of our society, yet she was criticized.
Today, those who thought negatively about the brilliant ideas of our first lady in the beginning have now realized that they got it wrong. This was for the benefit of our country and now taking a global stage. Thank you Madam Fatima Bio for the job well done. Once the double viewpoint is understood and set up as the necessary starting point, the detractors of the first lady’s ambition for our future generations will have a positive change of attitude.
Congratulations to the first lady Mrs Fatima Bio on the recognition of her work on this front by the African Ministers Council on water, and her Hands off our girls flagship campaign, in her work to empower Sierra Leonean women to have their rights respected by a misogynist male dominated society. And also in her efforts to provide clean safe drinking water and sanitation for families across our country. Pleasing as its sound that she’d made this undertaking to work with the AMCOW council by becoming their goodwill ambassador to carry her work across the African continent to many suffering families that are denied this basic of human needs, that help can’t come soon enough. But in my opinion, I am afraid the help Mrs Fatima Bio promised them will take little longer than expected to materialise. Especially families in African conflict zones, like Tigray in Northern Ethiopia, Northern Nigeria, the Sahel, Central Africa, and more recently Mozambique.
By the look of it, its a massive undertaking by our first lady. But if charity begins at home, and the experience of Sierra Leonean women or families up and down the country her charity organisation was meant to help and protect, Mrs Bio is not suited for this position. Lets stop kidding ourselves here. That AMCOW, in awarding this prestigious prize to our first lady after whittling down the list of candidates for this prestigious African award, one is left with the distinction feelings, who are the other African women Candidates, in what ever capacity, that faild to reach the threshold to qualify for the award. Mr Thomas Banda said, she was considered for the award because of her high profile image.
Now forgive me for my cynicism here Mr Banda, Which profile are we talking about here? Her FACEBOOK mudslinging match with the political opponents of her husband or the headlines she’d been generating on the Africanist press corruption allegations they are making against her? Or the butt of jokes she’d become in late nights Nigerian comedy sketches. Mrs Fatima Bio seems to generate more news headlines, and all for the wrong reasons. Sometimes she appears to generate more news headlines than her husband President. No other African first lady seems to share that social media space with her. So I wonder how much of that was taken into account by AMCOW, before they made their judgement call to award her the prize.
Nice job Fatima, we are proud of you; what a great First Lady you are. God bless.
This is exactly the reason why a lot of young people don’t take the AU seriously. Here they are outrightly putting their inadequacy on full display for the world to witness by giving an award of recognition to the First Lady for her work in promoting girl empowerment in our little Sierra Leone. Perhaps officials in the AU will be kind enough to tell us what criteria or measures of assessment were used to probe into the conduct and dealings of the First Lady that made them conclude she was deserving of an award of recognition.
Perhaps,its time for me to explain,what,how and why awards of recognition are so very important. In today’s Africa there are very few leaders with integrity that Young people can look up to as mentors. Fatima Bio is not one of them – Her hands are tainted and stained with corrupt practices that cannot be washed off. So why did the African Union decide to ignore all the red flags telling them an award for the First Lady was not a good idea? Were they bribed by the old soldier
in State House so that they can help sanitize his wife’s tarnished reputation and deplorable image? Who knows but the winds that blows.
The AU has failed Africa miserably; Instead of creating a sustainable plan to vanquish the likes of Boku Haram from the face of the earth they are handing out awards to questionable people for their mediocre, lackluster efforts. A sad never ending story – the story of Africa.