UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi has called for collective action to reinvigorate efforts to ensure sexual health and rights of all, and, in particular, to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence.
He was speaking at the 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights conference in Freetown.
“Our world is currently experiencing upheavals that if not addressed immediately, will have tremendous impact on our future. The underlying truth borne out by evidence is that every crisis we have, has a decidedly young, female face”, he said.
The UN Resident Coordinator added: “In Sierra Leone, this is the face of a frightened young woman grappling with gender-based violence. This is the face of a 16-years old pregnant school girl, who is among the 21 per cent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 that were found to have begun child bearing. This is the face of a young girl, kept out of school due to female genital mutilation rites coupled with pandemic disruptions, and further exacerbated by poverty, lack of social safety net, and digital divide.
“Unfortunately, these challenges are not just found in Sierra Leone, but are replicated to varying degrees across Africa.
“The 10th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, therefore, provides a timely opportunity for all stakeholders to rethink and renew our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals – in particular Goal 5: Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls. The theme of the conference, “Accelerating the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in Africa” is a call to action for stakeholders to reinvigorate our efforts to ensure sexual health and rights of all, and, in particular, to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence.
“This requires collective action. People, including youth, civil society, the media, the private sector and other stakeholders, need to generate an unstoppable movement pushing for the required transformation. Across Africa, we need to build stronger partnerships, mobilize more resources, and provide innovative and sustainable solutions to address sexual and gender-based violence. In our respective countries, we have to embed the needed transitions in the policies, budgets, institutions, and regulatory frameworks of governments, while ensuring that the most vulnerable, including women and girls are protected and empowered.
“The solution to so many of Africa’s biggest challenges is likely right in front of us: the realization of the full rights and potential of women and girls, and young people in general.
“When individuals can exercise real informed choice over their health, bodies and futures, they can contribute to prosperous societies and a more sustainable, equitable and just world.
“By prioritizing agency and the empowerment of all people — especially women, girls, young people, and the most vulnerable — so they can finally exercise real, informed choice over their health, bodies, and futures, we can unleash a powerful, reinforcing cycle of gains.
“Therefore, let us collectively take advantage of the transformative opportunity this flagship regional Conference presents to us. Let us work diligently and together to reverse our current trajectories. Let us recommit ourselves towards sustainable and equitable development, where the most vulnerable, especially young people and women, free from sexual and gender-based violence, are at the centre of economic and social development.
“This is how we will achieve the Africa that we want – an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals”, he ended.
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