Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 July 2020:
It is now almost eighteen months since President Dr Julius Maada Bio declared a national state of emergency on the growing rape crisis in Sierra Leone.
Yesterday, he once again called on parents and local communities to support his government’s efforts in tackling rape, early marriage and all forms of violence against women and girls in the country, as the number of reported cases continues to rise.
Speaking at a high-level meeting with stakeholders at State House, the President said that it is the responsibility of government to protect the lives of everyone, as he emphasised the need to end all harmful practices that are affecting the growth and potential of women and girls in the country.
The President also used the occasion to commend the ‘Rainbow Initiative’ for their tenacity in doing a very difficult job – standing up for survivors of rape and sexual violence.
He noted that the statistics on rape in the country are grim, which is why he declared a national emergency on rape and sexual violence in February 2019.
“Rape is unacceptable because it is about the future of our children. The parents and communities need to stand up because it is better to work towards prevention. Parents should be attentive to raising our children. There is need for a multisectoral approach and coordination to get rid of impunity,” he said.
The First Lady – Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, said that the aim of the meeting with stakeholders is to brief the President on the task given to the “Hands Off Our Girls” (HOOG) campaign and to find strategies to help bring an end to the rape, teenage pregnancy and early marriage crisis in the country.
She noted that the HOOG has gone right across the country to engage relevant stakeholders and to raise awareness about the dangers of rape and sexual violence against women and girls. She also said that since its launch, they have achieved a lot but still need the cooperation of everyone, if they are to end this crisis.
Executive Director of Rainbow Initiative, Daniel Kettor, said that there had been a lack of support from the community for survivors, and this he said is affecting the fight against rape.
Kettor called on government to accelerate the work of the proposed One-Stop Centers, assign medical staff to those centers and establish more safe homes across the country, to assist and support vulnerable girls and women.