A National Non-Governmental Organization Movement toward Peace and Development Agency (MoPADA –SL) with support from the European Union has ended the 16 days of activism in Daru town, Jawie Chiefdom Kailahun District on 10th December 2019 with the launching of a special project to protect women and girls in the Country.
The Project is dubbed ‘’Stand Up, Speak Out,’’ Breaking the Silence around Gender Based Violence among Rural Communities in East and Southern regions of Sierra Leone.
Hundreds of school children, parents and stakeholders processed with brass bands and other traditional drumming through the streets of Daru to mark the launching of the day.
The ceremony attracted key stakeholders from the religious faith groups,petty traders,women groups, politicians,youth groups and mammy queens among others.
The chairperson for the ceremony who also doubles as the Deputy Chairperson Kailahun District Council,Nancy Coomber, said violence against women and girls should be a thing of the past.
She noted that girl’s enrollment in various educational institutions across the country and Kailahun District at large is always high at the start of the academic year but dwindles as the academic year progresses.
She highlighted the fact that, it has been very challenging to retain girls in schools in Sierra Leone and Kailahun in particular and that it is time to take a collaborative approach to solve this menace.
She entreated school boys to help their sisters and female counterparts to persevere and stay in school.
According to her parents and everyone in society should see the problem of girls not staying in school as a national issue and work towards addressing it in their own way.
European Union Deputy Ambassador,Jamila EL Assaidi said the International Human Rights Day is observed across the world.He implored stakeholders and citizens of Kailahun District for mobilizing and taking to the streets in favour of human rights.
She observed that Human Rights are fundamental and vital for development and preservation of any peaceful, just and prosperous nation and emphasized that these rights includes the right to education, the right to a decent living, the right to health care, the right to live free from discrimination, free from violence etc.
She further recounted that all over the world these rights are increasingly challenged and we as a people must work towards ensuring that these rights are protected.
She called on all to break the silence and speak up for the rights of women and girls.
‘’We must be brave and publicly recognize that violence against women and girls, in all its forms, is a manifestation of a profound lack of respect for millions of mothers, spouses, sisters and daughters, and a failure to recognize their quality, their dignity and their humanity.,’’ she maintained.
She committed the EU’s support to ensure that citizens especially women enjoy their human rights across borders and the world over. Respect for gender equality she maintained is a core value of the EU that is enshrined in the European Union law.
The EU according to her will continue to partner with the Government of Sierra Leone, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, academists, the private sector and many others to improve the wellbeing of women and girls in Sierra Leone.
She underscored the point that we must recognize that gender based violence, although still largely under reported, is highly prevalent in all communities in Sierra Leone.
About 50% of women between the ages of 15 and 19 experience physical violence in Sierra Leone and that the total number of rape cases reported, represent girls under age 18 ,the EU Deputy Ambassador noted.
The EU she added is committed to working tirelessly with local communities , national and international partners to strengthen the legal frameworks and institutions, to improve services for survivors while also addressing the root causes of violence, by challenging social norms and behaviours and tackling wider gender inequalities.
With the launch of today’s project, she underlined the important work that lies ahead for the ‘Movement towards Peace and Development Agency” and its partners, the Agency for Integrated Development Sierra Leone (AID-SL) and Street Sports Hope (SSH), whom the EU is proud to support for the next 30 months with a 500,000,00 EUR grant to make important strides to fight gender based violence.
Talking about future progress, she said the project which started in September 2019, is aimed at creating an enabling environment for women and girls to claim and access their right to a life free from violence.
Through the project, 10,000 men, boys, women, girls and sexual minorities will be targeted and supported while gaining improved economic independence.
The EU project will also support community justice and social protection mechanisms for prevention and response to sexual violence and other forms of gender based violence.
The project will also support survivors in Kailahun and Bonthe districts with a comprehensive range of services including psychosocial support, health services, and economic empowerment through the establishment of an endowment fund.
The entire ceremony ended with a role play on the theme: Stand Up, Speak Out, Breaking the Silence around gender based violence.The signing of a commitment register to end violence in Kailahun by relevant stakeholder’s forms the highpoint of the ceremony.