First Lady Fatima Maada Bio on the 29th of September 2020 met with representatives of the Sierra Leone Medical Women’s Association that was established in 1974. The team was led by Dr. Olabisi Claudius-Cole . The meeting is part of the ongoing campaign on sexual and gender-based violence SGBV in line with the ‘Hands off our girls’ campaign that seeks to end rape and early child marriage.
The meeting was to discuss positive strides made in the fight against Rape, ways to improve the efficacy of methods currently being employed and for Dr Olabisi to formally introduce a vibrant team of 25 female Doctors, that have volunteered to join the fight against SGBV to the First Lady and to the Police.
Also in attendance was the Deputy Inspector General of Police Ms. Elizabeth Augusta Turay. She gave an update on the recent activities of the Police in combating SGBV, including recent MOU’s with stakeholders like Don Bosco, NEMS (National Emergency Medical Service), L.A.W.Y.E.R.S, Rainbo, Aberdeen Women Centre and a host of others. More importantly the MOU’s have been operationalised, with the investigative unit of the Family Support Unit being more effective. A unified strategy in dealing with rape is proving effective. Concerning Police investigation and persecution of rape cases, the DIG said there are absolutely no sacred cows.
First Lady Fatima Maada Bio said the Hands Of our Girls initiative was the brainchild of His Excellency the President. He is determined to push for sustainable development through more value based woman participation. Women must be equal partners in development. As such any barrier to female human capital development, must be addressed. That is why he takes the issue of SGBV seriously.
We are moving from just talking about rape and playing the blame game, to actually doing something about it, by synchronising our strategy. The solution is multi-pronged, as such coordination is important, with the different arms of government synchronising their strategy. Unlike before, all the agencies now meet periodically to compare notes. Non-Governmental agencies play a major role and they are also part of the planning and execution process. It is about taking responsibility to ensure we win this battle against rape. The rape culture must be dealt with. A change of mind-set through sensitisation will be domesticated to be more effective, this includes sex-education in schools taking cognisance of present socialisation process.
The team had an open discussion about sexual penetration, and it’s link to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, poverty and prostitution. They looked at the complex social issue surrounding the perpetrators (Sometimes very close family members), and the desire to compromise the investigation and protect these perpetrators. When doctors treat most pregnant underage girls, they also have to provide the necessary counselling .
Dr. Olabisi said that part of the contribution of Sierra Leone Medical Women’s Association, will be testifying in court when required for Rape cases. This is important , because before now there was only Dr. Olabisi for medical based testimony. These Doctors will not only care for the patients, they will be trained on evidence based treatment, and how to give professional testimony in court.
The training of these doctors will include how to examine, collecting forensic evidence, follow up, presenting evidence in court among other things. It is designed to be a 5 day course. Mr Daniel of the Rainbo initiative elaborated on the timeline for the training. Mr Ahemesah of UNAid said his organisation will sponsor the workshops. First Lady Bio asked for detailed budget for the training, because she wants it operational as soon as possible.
Dr Olabisi said the network of Sierra Leone Medical Women’s Association will make it possible for them to have SGBV coordinators in various hospitals. First Lady also intimated the group about an application (Mobile app) being designed in collaboration with Save The Children that will create a virtual peer group where kids can interact and promote positive messages.
First Lady made it clear that her Office is adopting a wholistic approach in dealing with the scourge of rape. There are instances where specific cases are national, but the strategy must transcend individual cases, and be designed to combat rape as a collective.
The attitude that every solution must come from thee government must change, every Sierra Leonean must take responsibility . Parents should reset the equilibrium of morality, as a society we have to decide on the direction of the next generation but it stars now, poverty is not a reason to loose our integrity. So we are incorporating the Police Wives, markets women, farmers and utilise mass communication (Radio, Tv, social media, print media etc).
The first lady thanked the doctors for coming on board to help in the common fight, “because with even the involvement of the police, military and the introduction of a special court … this is a collective effort, and we should all take responsibility ”.
Deputy inspector general of police Elizabeth Augusta Turay thanks doctor Olabisi for setting up a team of dynamic female doctors to join the hands of our girl’s campaign and state that she is happy they have their own medical doctors on board as they will facilitate the efforts of the police in convicting perpetrators.
Strategic Communications Division
Office of The First Lady
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