Sierra Leone Telegraph: 03 July 2022:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio last Friday delivered the closing statement at the largest ever three-day conference on sexual health and rights, the 10th of such meetings of over 900 delegates from 41 African countries in Freetown.
The 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is a landmark moment that brought together feminist activists, Governments, UN Agencies, development partners and civil society from across the Continent to learn, connect and build consensus to end violence against women and girls.
“It seems Africa is in Freetown to discuss sexual reproductive health rights,” President Bio said, adding, “Thank you Purposeful for organising one of the largest international conferences in Freetown on such an invaluable topic”.
“The Conference’s Chief Patron, our own First Lady, deserves a very special thank you. She has been tireless in working with partners to champion the causes of girls and women. She has given a voice to girls and women…We thank you for your great work and for transforming and promoting the image of our country as a place that cares and does something about women’s issues,” he said.
Reflecting on the outcome of the conference, the Co-founder of Purposeful, Chernor Bah, said it was an honour for Sierra Leone to host such an event.
“What a joy and honour it has been. You have honoured us with your presence, your voice, your passion and your power. We are beyond grateful that our country could be made into this beautiful space that hosted this amazing event,” he said.
The convener for the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights, Dr Uwem Esiet, said he was overwhelmed by the outpour of zeal and passion that the country demonstrated in pulling off the conference. He thanked President Bio, the First Lady and Purposeful for all their efforts in ensuring that the conference was a success.
In her solidarity statement, British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Lisa Chesney MBE, said she was inspired and uplifted by the conference which had given Sierra Leone the opportunity to showcase its commitment to the continent and the rest of the world.
She noted that the government is ensuring that women and girls’ rights are protected, citing the overturning of the ban on pregnant girls, the establishment of the sexual offenses court, the ‘Hands Of Our Girls’ campaign and the distribution of sanitary pads to school going children as remarkable.
“I have never met a man that is comfortable of talking of menstrual hygiene than the President of Sierra Leone” she stated and concluded by saying that the United Kingdom put women and girls’ rights at the heart of their policy making.
First Lady Madam Fatima Bio expressed gratitude to all the champions of women and girls’ rights for being part of the conference, especially the Vice President of Liberia, the CEO of Merck Foundation, the Minister of Gender from The Gambia and delegates from all 41 countries.
The First Lady thanked her husband, the President, for gracing the closing ceremony with his presence and for creating the space for women to thrive in his government.
The legendary South African musician, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, expressed great delight in the huge success of the event, adding that she has heard positive things about Sierra Leone under the leadership of President Bio.