Empowering African Women

empowering African women

Empowering African Women: First Ladies Unite for Gender Equality

Champions of Change: A Historic Gathering

On July 3rd, 2024, Josephine Kamara hosted a monumental event at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, featuring the First Ladies of Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, and Burundi. The purpose was to launch the “We Are Equal” campaign and celebrate the Child Marriage Act of 2024 passage. This gathering symbolized a unified stand for gender equality, child protection, and the empowerment of women across Africa.

A Landmark Moment for Sierra Leone

Dr. Fatima M Bio, the First Lady of Sierra Leone, expressed her profound gratitude for hosting such a significant event. She highlighted the challenges African First Ladies face in traveling and emphasized the commitment and dedication of her peers who journeyed from various parts of Africa to support this cause.

The Motivation Behind the Journey

Despite the logistical challenges, the First Ladies were driven by a shared goal. The First Lady of Cape Verde, Débora Katisa, stressed the importance of unity and the collective effort to end child marriage. She described the campaign as a historic moment and said it was an honor for her to be part of this initiative.

The First Lady of Burundi, Angeline Ndayishimiye, echoed this sentiment. She highlighted the strength and determination of African women and stressed that their presence in Sierra Leone was motivated by a deep commitment to the cause of gender equality and the protection of children.

The Role of the Organization of African First Ladies

The First Ladies discussed the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), formerly focused on HIV/AIDS. The organization, initiated over 20 years ago, now encompasses a broader development mission. Dr. Bio emphasized that the shift to development allowed each First Lady to address the unique issues in their countries, from education and health to gender-based violence and economic empowerment.

The “We Are Equal” Campaign

The “We Are Equal” campaign promotes gender equality by focusing on health, education, and economic empowerment. Each First Lady shared their perspectives on the campaign:

Débora Katisa, Cape Verde

Katisa highlighted the need to work with society to ensure equal opportunities for women and girls. She emphasized that a society cannot reach its full potential if half its population is excluded from leadership roles in politics, economics, and education.

Angeline Ndayishimiye, Burundi

Ndayishimiye discussed how the campaign would ensure women have equal access to every sector, including education, healthcare, and the military. She mentioned the significance of having women in leadership roles, inspiring younger generations, and fostering a more inclusive society.

Dr. Fatima M Bio, Sierra Leone

Dr. Bio connected the campaign to her ongoing “Hands Off Our Girls” initiative. She detailed the strides made in Sierra Leone, such as increasing the number of girls in school and ensuring their retention through policies and support systems like sanitary pads. She emphasized the need for continuous advocacy and support to keep girls in school and empower them to reach their full potential.

The Child Marriage Act: A Redemption and a Hope

Dr. Bio shared her personal story of being a child marriage victim, underscoring the devastating impact it has on young girls. The Child Marriage Act, recently passed in Sierra Leone, is a beacon of hope and a step towards ending this harmful practice. Dr. Bio highlighted the importance of awareness and the role of traditional and religious leaders in implementing this law across the country.

Implementation Challenges and Solutions

The First Ladies acknowledged the challenges in implementing such laws, especially in remote areas. Dr. Bio stressed the importance of continuous advocacy and education. She shared how the “Hands Off Our Girls” campaign has reached every household in Sierra Leone, ensuring that no part of the country is left behind.

A Unified Vision for the Future

The discussion ended with a collective commitment to work towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. The First Ladies hoped that future leaders would carry forward these initiatives and create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Josephine Kamara concluded the session by expressing her gratitude to the First Ladies for their inspiring leadership and dedication. She emphasized the importance of such gatherings in fostering unity and driving positive change across Africa.