By Amodu Bangura in Freetown
President Julius Maada Bio has been presented with an award as Patron of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association, ECOFEPA, for his outstanding leadership on governance, democracy, human capital development and the empowerment of women and girls in the country.
Members who presented the ECOFEPA Patron Award included MPs from Senegal, Togo, Niger, Liberia, Ghana, Ivory Coast and The Gambia, as well as the Head of Parliamentary Affairs and the Clerk of ECOFEPA.
They were accompanied by the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Rt. Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, and the chairperson of the female parliamentary caucus of Sierra Leone, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay.
President of ECOFEPA and Senegalese politician, Hon. Woraye Saar, presented the award to President Bio and expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the warm hospitality.
“His Excellency, we the women in the ECOWAS parliament are grateful for your outstanding leadership and for the empowerment of women and girls in Sierra Leone and in Africa in general. We believe that your commitment and political will to women’s empowerment will one day be replicated by your colleague heads of state.
“Your human capital development agenda is outstanding, and we are aware of the many good works your government is doing to empower women and support girls in Sierra Leone. We are, therefore, here as an association of women parliamentarians in the ECOWAS parliament to extend our gratitude to you through our colleague, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay, by awarding you as a Patron of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association”.
President Bio welcomed the ECOFEPA members to Sierra Leone as he prayed for a successful conference with positive deliberations and outcomes that would reflect the group’s goal toward the interest of the continent.
“My commitment to supporting women is natural. As a result of the roles my late mother and elder sister played in shaping the person I am today, I understand women better and the love I received from my mother, who believed in education.
“I feel very comfortable with you. Everything I’ve done has been in memory of my mother, who never attended school. When we talk about empowering women and girls, it ranges from the fight against rape and sexual violence to establishing special courts for rape, giving at least 30 percent of political seats to women, and putting an end to early and child marriages, among other goodies.”
“It is an honour to receive you and the award. I am delighted to be honoured by women for my outstanding work towards developing the human capital of my country. This shows you understand exactly where I am coming from. I am, therefore, encouraging more men to understand where I want to take the country to,” the President stated.
He added that before now, menstruation was never discussed by parents, thereby leaving the girls with a double stigma. He assured them that girls now understood that menstruation was a biological problem that they must encourage discussions around.
In the past, we hardly allowed our girls who were parents to continue schooling, forgetting that they were victims. Hence, as parents, we were doing the secondary victimisation.
“In less than five years, what my government has been doing is to correct the misconceptions about women and girls, thereby bringing them back on board in speed with development. We don’t only have free quality education for all, but my government has ensured that we make it free for all girls offering STEM subjects from secondary school to university. This is to catch up with the 21st century,” he assured.