Fatima Bio Honored for Her “Hands Off Our Girls” Initiative

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First Lady Fatima Maada Bio

First Lady Fatima Maada Bio is quickly making her mark in Sierra Leone. For the first time in history, spearheaded by President Julius Maada Bio, First Ladies from different African countries were united in the fight against gender based violence

 “We are proud of our First Lady Fatima Maada Bio for her mission to help and protect women and girls,” said Honorary Consul Timbo. He added that in December 2018, the First Lady Fatima Bio launched “Hands off our Girls” to combat sexual violence, child trafficking and prostitution, child marriage and teenage pregnancy. On February 7, 2019, President Julius Maada Bio declared a National Emergency on rape and sexual based violence.

According to the Rainbow Initiative, a local organization dedicated to the fight against sexual violence, nearly 150 young Sierra Leonean women get pregnant due to rape every month.

“Rape is unacceptable and should be frowned at in society, while calling on women to not only help in the prosecution process, but to name and shame perpetrators found guilty before sending them to prison,” said First Lady Fatima Bio.

“We should not condone rapists, as they are bad people and what we should do is to name and shame them,” Fatima Bio added. She went further to say that she is passionate about women rights and equality and referred to the women of Sierra Leone as “women of substance.”

The Hollywood elite Mrs. Timbo was in attendance to welcome the First Lady Fatima Bio. As one of the most elegant Nollywood actresses, she is no stranger to the entertainment industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours Degree in Performing Art from the Roehampton Institute in London. She enjoyed a successful career in the African Film Industry, screenplay writer, and executive producer.

“Special thanks to everyone who quickly helped with extending invitations throughout Los Angeles County in order to help us honour our First Lady of Sierra Leone,” said Mrs. Timbo, who spearheaded the special event.

“I am especially grateful to Chief of Protocol Lourdes Saab of the Office of Protocol,” she said, adding that the Office of Protocol is responsible for ensuring that appropriate protocol is observed when foreign dignitaries visit Los Angeles County; maintaining a liaison with the Los Angeles Consular Corps; promoting international business, tourism and cultural exchanges throughout Los Angeles County; and promoting international understanding and cultural awareness.

It could be recalled that hundreds of people demonstrated in Freetown some time ago against sexual violence, days after the Sierra Leone government promised a crackdown on rape and sexual abuse.

Among the estimated 300 to 400 demonstrators was the First Lady, Fatima Bio, who few days later launched a programme called: “Hands off our Girls” to combat sexual violence, child trafficking and prostitution, child marriage and teenage pregnancy.

The First Ladies of Liberia, Niger, Ghana, Chad and Gambia where present at the launch and gave their backing to the initiative.

Following this development, President Julius Maada Bio called for life prison sentences for offenders.

The number of officially reported cases of sexual violence in Sierra Leone has risen from 4,750 in 2017 to 8,505 since the beginning of 2018, according to national police statistics.

In addition, the Merck Foundation brought together 15 African First Ladies to break the stigma of infertility.

Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) Summit 2019 was attended by as many as fifteen African First Ladies to discuss the strategy to break the stigma of infertility and empower women and girls in Education.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother explained, “I am very proud to partner with African First ladies to become “Merck more than a Mother” Ambassadors and partner with them to build healthcare capacity, break the stigma of infertility and empower women and girls in education with special focus on STEM.

During their strategy meeting, they shared experiences, discussed challenges and defined solutions to ensure continuous improvement and exchange variable aspects of different cultures in order to localize specific messages that can raise health awareness and create a culture shift to empower women and girls across Africa.

The Summit was attended by H.E. Neo Jane Masisi, the First Lady of Botswana; H.E Denise Nkurunziza, the First Lady of Burundi, H.E. Brigitte Touadera, the First Lady of Central African Republic, H.E. Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso, the First Lady of Congo; H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First Lady of Ghana; H.E. Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the First Lady of The Gambia; H.E. Condé Djene, the First Lady of Guinea Conakry; H.E. Clar Weah, the First Lady of Republic of Liberia; H.E. Professor Gertrude Mutharika, the First Lady of Malawi; H.E. Mariam Mint Ahmad Tekber, the First lady of Mauritania; H.E. Dr. Isaura Ferrão Nyusi, the First Lady of Mozambique; H.E. Madam Monica Geingos, the First Lady of Namibia; H.E Aïssata Issoufou Mahamado, the First Lady of Niger; H.E Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of Sierra Leone; and H.E. Auxillia Mnangagw, the First Lady of Zimbabwe

A special training program was organized for the First Ladies’ technical teams to enable them to achieve the agreed objectives and follow up on Merck Foundation’s programs of building capacity in different sectors.

It will be recalled that sometime in recent past, Madam Fatima Bio was recognized as World Peace Ambassador for her hard work and commitment to nation-building,.

The award was presented at a press briefing held at the Office of the First Lady, by Dr. GD Singh, Founder and Chairman of Asian African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Presenting the prestigious award to the First Lady, Dr. Singh noted that this is first award from the World Peace Ambassador to Sierra Leone since it was established in 2000.

He said the remarkable approach and relentless vision by Mrs. Fatima Bio did not only make Sierra Leone proud but Africa as a whole.

Dr. Singh congratulated Her Excellency Madam.Fatima Bio for being a role model to other women and encouraged her to continue the good work of promoting peace in Sierra Leone.

Receiving the award from Dr. Singh, Madam.Fatima Bio thanked World Peace Ambassador for recognising and considering her vision for Sierra Leone.

She assured not to disappoint the World Peace Organization but committed to do more in promoting humanity.

She encouraged the World Peace Organization to recognise other Sierra Leonean women in the coming years.

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