Sierra Leone’s President Bio launches ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ Campaign Operational Plan

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 May 2021:

President Dr Julius Maada Bio has today launched an Operational Plan for the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ Campaign 2021–2023, as the country commemorates International Menstrual Hygiene Day, organised by the First Lady, Fatima Maada Bio at the new Freetown City Council Auditorium.

Speaking at the launch of the Operational Plan, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby, said that for billions of girls around the globe, menstruation remain a monthly reality which if not managed well, could interrupt daily life, including schooling – especially high rate of absenteeism.

“I am making this public pledge of a total commitment to the welfare of all our girls, the future doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges. We owe this to our girls,” he concluded.

United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr Babatunde Ahonsi, extended his thanks and appreciation to the Office of First Lady for hosting the official launch of the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ Operational Plan.

He thanked the government of Sierra Leone for its commitment to eradicating gender-based violence and other harmful practices against girls and women, adding that the Plan should promote the right of women and help to advance the implementation of the Human Capital Development agenda of the government.

“The United Nations here in Sierra Leone appreciates Your Excellency the First Lady for your exemplary leadership to move forward the agenda of enhancing the life chances of women and girls,” he noted.

The First Lady, Fatima Maada Bio, said the celebration of the International Menstrual Hygiene Day is very important to her because of her passion for promoting the wellbeing of women and girls in the country.

She further stated that in 2018 President Bio sent her to tour the country, engage with women and girls and identify some of their challenges, which then gave birth to the ‘Hands Off Our Girls campaign’, adding that her advocacy is to ensure that women and girls are protected, especially school-going girls who must be supported to discover their true potential through education and nation-building.

“I am making all this progress because I have a supportive husband who believes and pushes me with the brightest smiles to do more for the safety of our children, regardless of the region, political belonging or tribe,” she stated.

International Menstrual Hygiene Day demonstrates that menstruation is not a choice, therefore every girl deserves free sanitary pad, Mrs Bio told her audience.

“These sanitary pads are high quality and meet all international standards,” she concluded.

Addressing the audience, this is what President Bio said:

Let me, from the outset, welcome each and every one of our distinguished visitors to our warm and peaceful Sierra Leone. I am hopeful you have had some time to try the local cuisine, enjoyed our golden beaches, and partaken of that fabled Sierra Leonean hospitality.

This event is particularly significant because it is a ceremony at which a very passionate Sierra Leonean who has provided leadership for causes that have changed attitudes and life outcomes is being recognised.

We are especially proud of her extensive work throughout Sierra Leone with “Hands Off Our Girls.” Madam First Lady, as a result of your fervent advocacy for gender empowerment and for the protection of women against sexual and gender-based violence, more girls are now safer in their communities and schools; more girls persist in school and are not forced into early marriages; more girls have access to menstrual hygiene products; and there is greater recognition of the immense potential of girls in fostering sustainable and inclusive development in Sierra Leone.

Equality, equity, access, and empowerment are suddenly not incidental to how girls see themselves and believe in themselves in Sierra Leone. Congratulations again, Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, Sierra Leone is very proud of this continental recognition of your selfless and committed leadership. Thank you.

As a country, we are also truly proud of AMCOW’s leadership in shaping continent-wide policies on water, sanitation, and hygiene. Your work is critical to our achieving a continental and global aspiration to provide access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. It is recognised by the United Nations General Assembly as a human right. But more importantly, we believe that it supports the realisation of all human capital development goals and it is integral to our country’s Medium Term National Development.

I look forward to the AMCOW Secretarit’s formal launch of the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines in June of this year. My Government looks forward to working with the secretariat to strengthen the enabling environment, develop infrastructure, and improve the delivery of services in the WASH sector.

In Sierra Leone, we believe access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene, especially for women and girls, is critical to their everyday well-being, domestic needs, and their reproductive and menstrual health. But WASH policies, programmes, and activities have not always included the voices and needs of women.

As a country, we believe that should change. In their communities and nationally, we believe that women should be central to planning, designing, implementing, managing, and assessing the impact of water and sanitation interventions. This gender-responsive and gender-sensitive approach aligns with UN, continental, and our national aspirations to achieve comprehensive gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. Our recent Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy provides us a comprehensive framework for our work in that regard.

Our human capital development priorities– access to quality education, access to quality healthcare services, and food security – aim to maximise the productivity of our citizens. Clearly, poor health outcomes as a consequence of lack of access to water, sanitation, and hygiene adversely affect the quality of life and the inclusive and sustainable development goals we hope to achieve with our human capital development imperative.

My Government is therefore rehabilitating dams, expanding distribution networks, installing gravity fed water supply systems, drilling solar-powered borehole systems and stand posts, and optimising water treatment and supply stations right across the country. There is also greater access to sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and knowledge. The foregoing and additional measures have increased access to potable water and reduced disease incidence right across the country.

But in all of this, the mobilisation of Governments and communities to prioritise equity of access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene is critical. Women and children should be empowered to be agents of transformation and change. As noted earlier, WASH strategies and policies should be gender-responsive and gender-sensitive for good reason. The First Lady’s passion, drive, and intense commitment to changing lives will be invaluable in that regard. My Government looks forward to working closely with AMCOW and The First Lady’s Secretariat.

Let me close by re-stating my Government’s and my country’s firm commitment to accelerating achievements in the WASH sector. Once more, I want to thank AMCOW and congratulate The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mrs Fatima Bio, for this continental recognition. I thank you.” (END).

7 Comments

  1. This is a great step and what is expected of a first lady and want to thank her for all her work in helping young girls. She seems to be listening and not getting involved in politics these days.But in any analysis of a problem the root cause is vital. There is nothing wrong in creating awareness among men but the bottom line is a lot of girls are struggling to survive and until this is addressed we will not solve the problem. Another thing is the law has to be applied fairly we cannot be punishing some when others are doing the same.

  2. A picture is worth thousands words. Now you don’t have to be a genius,to work out, Bio and his wife are seeking out two audiences here. Our international aid partners that are supporting his wife’s flagship hands off our girls charity organisations, and those fellow Sierra-leoneans that are still weded in the mistaken belief that this president is now serious about supporting our marginalised women and girls, that makes up half of our population. Now whether you happened to be a supporter, or opponent of this president, we can all agree on one thing, Bio and his wife are now jointly running Sierra Leone PLC, like a private enterprise, or a family business. Instead of the president of a country, whoes decisions making process affects millions of us, and has a huge impacts in our everyday lives .

    As always, the people of Sierra Leone are the main share holders that never seemed to get anything from their five years long term political investment.Casting the ballots for the same failed politicians. No suprises there. We are the most easy to rule people in the world. Effectively we Sierra Leoneans are the real loosers in this ponzi scheme . Yet our international willing partners, just keep opening the tap of free money to flow into Bio’s accounts, without being given the benefits, to monitor where the aid funds are spent. And above all eles if the funding are reaching their intended targets. All the while our women, and girl that are been abused, rape and humiliated, every day up and down the country are paying the price for carrying a tag that the president, and his wife are rendering them the assistance they needed .

    Forget about transparency, and accountability. Because as far as Bio is concerned, there is no reason for him and his wife to be transparent and accountabile to anyone, never mind the our international partners. When challenged, the excuse has always been, hands of our girls, is acharity organisations. The first lady never looses her sleep over, whether the auditors will come knocking at her doors, asking her to open the books for auditing purposes. Anyone with working brains can discribed their act as a public relations exircise. Or for better choice of words, can only be discribed as self-promotion. Self promotion is the practice of purposefully trying to present oneself as highly competent to other people. Their primary motivation is to be perceived by others as capable, intelligent, or talented even at the expense of being like by their fan base.A pefrcet discriptoin of our first family.

  3. THE HANDS OFF OUR GIRLS Campaign’s Operational Plan being launched appears to be a welcome and laudable initiative aimed at meeting the Sierra Leonean girl child’s health needs and at promoting her general welfare. What irks me though is the strident publicity surrounding the launch, leaving me wondering whether President Bio and his wife are not more engaged in political self-promotion both locally and globally, than in pursuing goals prompted by a genuine humanitarian concern and a selfless commitment to the higher interests of our nation – its girls’ and young women’s physical, mental and social well-being being crucial to its survival and prosperity.

    Indeed, how does one explain the point that Mrs Bio’s receipt of a prestigious continental award in the Nigerian capital for dedicated service to the Sierra Leonean girl child was followed almost immediately by the launch in Freetown of a ready-made operational plan? A simple coincidence? Or a well orchestrated set of events put in motion by forces with ulterior motives, working behind the scenes?

    Before passing a final judgement on the true nature and function of the operational plan and the politics – or the lack thereof – behind its launch, I will optimistically if perhaps naively wait and see how it goes about achieving the goals it sets itself. Ultimately, the plan – and by implication its initiators and promoters – will rise by its success on the ground or fall by its failure there.

  4. The first President of Sierra Leone that has pursued the interests of the girl child. Others have only been ignorant about them, especially our former chairman and leader.

  5. Encourage a vibrant boarding school system for girls in major schools around the country, with well trained and disciplined oriented matrons to superintend. Encourage the investment in school bookstores with a focus on literacy and professional literature; encourage the expansion of modern government bookshops and private enterprises in that line of business, with a zero tax regime for importation of educational material. Start somewhere in that line and observe what direction both boys and girls will follow too soon.

  6. Disappointing and makes no sense stuff. Look at that! The Minister of Gender was nowhere to be seen. Correct me if I’m wrong. Awkward and boring event without the Gender Minister present. Was the First Lady Fatima Bio deputising the Minister of Gender Affairs? God help and bless the Minister of Gender and our girls. ‘This nor to betteh tin’. Yeah.

  7. Even though the corrupt attitudes of this SLPP President and his wife have become a subject for mirth,scorn and ridicule they have still not changed their shadowy ways. Indeed, this is an admirable initiative that could transform the lives of millions of girls and young women in Sierra Leone,the only place I am proud to call my home. But here’s the thing that worries me. The President and his wife are not thoughtful and caring people – they are a perfect match for each other – a showboating, selfish Gold digger seeking her own and an arrogant old Cowboy sitting unfazed on a throne. Alas, such a program is surely bound to fail because it is not something being done in Good faith but for self conceited political reasons.

    The facts about the “Hands off our Girls” campaign are crystal clear – It is nothing but a freeloading scheme carefully designed by the first couple strictly for the dubious purpose of enriching themselves. Answer – After collecting huge amounts of money for her projects from the scanty coffers of government why are there still thousands of teenage girls roaming the mean streets of Freetown at night working as commercial Prostitutes? Show me the money. Where did it all go so quickly? Now please tell me, How many shiploads of sanitary pads and women’s hygiene products were bought with the truckloads full of Dollars handed to her by the incompetent JJ Saffa?

    Its laughable for this President to be blowing loud trumpets in support of his wife when girls are homeless, unable to cater for their needs or even go to school; Where are the foster homes, hospitals and rehabilitation centers for girls who have been traumatized by war, hardship and abject poverty? Show me the money; Truckloads that was supposed to be used to improve the lives of poor young girls who are mothers and drug addicts – Where did all the truckloads of Euros go so quickly? Its a fantastic program, but in the wrong hands – hands that overfeed and gourmandise while girls go to bed hungry. (lol)

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