Celebration of international Women's Day (IWD) - Ms. Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director

23 Mar 2012

Statement by Ms. Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director

Madam Chair,

Your Excellency the President of Sierra Leone,

Hon. Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs and other Ministers here present,

Her Royal Highness,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations and its Gender Theme Group, I’m honored to be here today celebrating IWD on the theme: Empowering Girls and Women for an Inspiring Future.
Women face discrimination and prejudice. Yet all over the world, in Tunisia, in Kenya, in Saudi Arabia, in Sierra Leone, women continue to work hard to make a difference, to alter their lives and the lives of others.

The path of the average Sierra Leonean girl is full of challenges as she strives towards an inspiring future – she may face early marriage or teenage pregnancy; sexual and gender based violence; she is often caught in a poverty trap with limited access to resources and opportunities that would stimulate her growth and ensure her education.

For the empowerment of Women, the writing is on the wall; the global agenda has set the pace, the Women of Sierra Leone are rising to the call.

The Women of Sierra Leone have made their position very clear on many occasions:

  • Women have mobilized across the country and different walks of life and across party lines to advance legislation critical for women including the Sexual Offences Bill. The efforts by civil society, WSSG female members of Parliament, APPWA and the MSWGCA to enact the gender equality legislation are commendable.
  • Women contributed greatly to shaping the vision and the recommendations coming out of the Sierra Leone Conference for Development and Transformation.
  • SCR 1325 marked the first time the Security Council addressed the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women; recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building. It also stressed the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. Sierra Leone has a National Action Plan in place for the implementation of SC resolutions 1325 and 1820. 
  • Women want to sit alongside with the men on issues of political tolerance and non-violence; on economic empowerment, on land rights and many more!
  • Many of these recommendations made have been endorsed by the Government through the UPR process. UPR recommendations that constitute an obligation voluntarily assumed by the Government to implement within the next 4-year period.

The United Nations is pleased to be part of supporting many of the above achievements and efforts.

Your Excellency, your government’s initiative in launching the Free Health Care to reduce maternal and child mortality has clearly demonstrated your vision for an inspiring future for women and children in Sierra Leone. The UN commends you for your exemplary vision in this regard as well as the commitments made in Moyamba at the 2010 IWD celebration and the 2011 IWD celebration related to the 30% quota and gender equality legislation.

Your Excellency, passing of the Gender Equality Act in time to influence the 2012 elections and ensuring peaceful and violence free elections provides for the inspiring future to start now, in 2012.

Your Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, empowering women and girls  a global call and Sierra Leone has embraced this vision. The UN family is proud to play its part in supporting your efforts in moving this agenda forward.

I thank you all for listening.