By Foday Moriba Conteh
In pursuance of her role as the First Lady of Sierra Leone in terms of fostering socio-economic development, Her Excellency Madam Fatima Bio has called on African leaders and the private sector to provide more opportunities for African women to gain their fullest potentials and praised her husband, His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio for supporting women and girls in Sierra Leone.
She made the call whilst delivering a keynote address in Tangier, Morocco, on Friday 15 November 2019 on the theme: “African Women: No Parity, No Development?” at a session of the 12th Edition of the Medays Forum in Morocco.
The First lady also told the audience that African women and girls face a series of challenges, ranging from lack of economic opportunities, access to justice, legal protection to the lack of access to quality healthcare and education.
“We cannot achieve sustainable development in Africa if women and girls are left behind. We have to close the gender gap. If you keep all the women in the kitchen, we will only have smoke. Women must have equal access to finance, technology and other opportunities. We have a duty to ensure that women and girls in Africa are protected from rape, sexual violence and early marriage,” the First Lady said.
Madam Fatima Bio also used the platform to showcase efforts of her husband to empower women and girls in Sierra Leone by protecting their rights. She highlighted the “Hands Off Our Girls” project, which she said was initiated by her husband to protect women and girls.
The First Lady cited “the amendment of the declaration of the State of Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence, the Amendment of the Sexual Offences Act, the Special Court for Rape and Sexual Violence Offences, the access to financial inclusion through NCRA, the increase in women political appointments, the free quality education programme and increase in access to university for female students”.
Later His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio and the First Lady were taken to Tanger Med, the largest port on the Mediterranean and in Africa by capacity, located on the Strait of Gibraltar about 40 km east of Tangier, Morocco. The Tanger Med project is a strategic priority of the Moroccan government for the economic and social development of the North Morocco region.