State House, Freetown, Tuesday 14 March 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has received hundreds of women and girls from different groups across the country who converged on the presidency to register their appreciation for the passing into law the GEWE Bill of 2022.
The President on 19 January 2023 publicly signed into law the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill, now GEWE Act 2022, guaranteeing at least 30% of all positions in Local Councils, all jobs in the Civil Service, all jobs in private institutions with 25 and more employees, and extending maternal leave from 12 weeks to 14 weeks as well as financial inclusion for women.
The process, which culminated in the visit to the President, started earlier in the day when the organisers, including the Office of the First Lady, targeted about 5,000 women and girls to assemble for the float parade at Up Gun, east of Freetown, and walked through to the Cotton Tree in the central business district and terminated at State House.
Addressing the crowd just outside his office, President Julius Maada Bio said: “I want to say thank you to the women and girls in the country. I have challenged myself to ensure that the story of the girl child in Sierra Leone is changed globally. Our girls will show the world that if given the opportunity, they will lead the country to a higher level.
“I am proud of you as I come to say thank you. I want to say thank you for vindicating me and for demonstrating that my action to invest in girls will not go in vain. Thank you. I am proud of you because, in four short years, you have proven to the world that the investment my government has been making in girls is the right thing to do. And we will continue to do more for you.”
He added that apart from the many things his government had done for women and girls in the country, schoolgirls had recently been performing extremely well in education. He called on parents, stakeholders, and the country at large to ensure that girls went to school and that they ended all forms of underage marriage.
“The best global achievement for all in this 21st century is education. I believe that the future of our country is women, which is why I am empowering them now to lead our country,” he reiterated.
President Bio urged Sierra Leonean women to make effective use of the opportunity his government was providing for them in the country, stating that it had always been a big and difficult fight globally to empower women and girls.
“But just because our mothers were unable to attain their full potential, does not mean our girls cannot. It is time to put all hands on deck to ensure they make use of the big opportunity presented to them by the government.
“Women in Sierra Leone have been working very hard, yet they are suffering the most, irrespective of their population size. My government is changing that status quo by opening up the space for them to be educated. So, I am appealing to every parent to make sure their girls are in school, that they enjoy their liberty and full dignity, and that they have the right to say yes or no,” he emphasised.
Female Member of Parliament, Rebecca Iye Kamara, thanked President Bio for the GEWE law, the free quality education, and the establishment of the Sexual Offenses Court, the country’s first Sexual Offences Model Court for rape proceedings and a part of the government’s diverse approach to fighting Gender Based Sexual Violence with emphasis on rape.
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