West African first ladies launch girls’ rights campaign


First ladies from six West African nations – The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Chad and Sierra Leone — met on Friday to launch an initiative to curb sexual-related offenses against girls across the sub-Saharan region. Launching the Hands Off Our Girls Campaign in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, the nation’s President Julius Maada Bio said the initiative is a way of sending a clear message to abusers of children, especially those committing sexual offenses, that there is no safe haven for them. “We are committed to enact laws that will prosecute and punish sex offenders against girls. We will also support the First Ladies’ initiative to remove barriers that restrict girls and women from enjoying their basic rights,” Bio added. Fatima Maada Bio, Sierra Leone’s first lady, said they met to discuss ways to end early marriage, teenage pregnancy, maternal and child mortality, and above all sexual offenses against girls. “I want to call on the police to use the laws to ensure rapists and child sex offenders are dealt with decisively to protect our girls from this menace,” Fatima Bio said, and was seconded by the other first ladies. The issue of sexual offenses against girls came to the force when a recent report by Sierra Leone’s Rainbo Initiative suggested that sexual violence occurs significantly at higher levels among girls than in women. The Hands Off Our Girls Campaign is being funded by the regional economic body ECOWAS and the UN Population Fund. Anadolu News Agency]]>