The event to commemorate UN World Day for Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence was organised by the office of First Lady of Sierra Leone on Sat 18th Nov.
His Excellency, Brig (Rt), Dr. Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Madam First Lady, Dr. Fatima Bio, The First Ladies of Nigeria and Angola, Ministers of Government, Religious leaders, Distinguish invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour to be here with you today, representing the NGO community at the Commemoration of the UN World Day, November 18, for the prevention of and healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. The words prevention and healing are important words to focus on.
Sincere thanks to H E, the First Lady of Sierra Leone, for her leadership in advocating for this resolution at the UN General Assembly in 2022. This groundbreaking resolution provides a framework for global action and accountability and will require sustained effort at all levels. Today is a significant day on this important journey.
In 2019, the First Lady of Sierra Leone launched the Hand off our Girls initiative along with the Free Sanitary pads, which was a national call to protect women and Girls from the barbaric act of Rape and other forms of Sexual exploitation, abuse, and Violence against children. This has contributed, among other initiatives, to the reduction of rape and abuse cases as well as the reduction of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality, as reported by the MOH.
Celebrating International Day for the prevention of and healing from sexual exploitation and abuse ensures that we can achieve the multisectoral and integrated action that we need to continue to reduce stigma, break the silence by creating greater awareness, and, most importantly, change the negative social norms that support sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence by bringing the perpetrators to justice. As an NGO community, we acknowledge and truly appreciate the commitment of the Government of Sierra Leone, evidenced by the amendment of the Sexual Offence Act in 2019 to include provision for the increase of the maximum penalty for rape and sexual penetration of a child from fifteen years to life imprisonment. This Act, and its survivor-centred approach is being discussed at an upcoming international seminar hosted by the Irish Consortium on Gender-Based Violence, a consortium that is chaired by GOAL.
The scale and complexity of the problem need to be understood and in the spotlight. Rape and other forms of child sexual exploitation, abuse and violence have been used as a weapon of war in areas with active conflict. Some crimes are being committed online through social media and other technology platforms as well as offline, including, for example, those whom we consider as children’s caregivers.
We fully support the UN calling child sexual exploitation, abuse and violence a global emergency because the scale of this problem is hard to comprehend. Globally, the figures are in the millions.
In Sierra Leone, of the 3,584 sexual violence incidences reported in 2020, 97% of the cases were among children.
A holistic approach is needed with a focus on prevention and healing. It requires collaboration and a multi-dimensional, and it needs our full and collective commitment. It also requires the leadership, that we are seeing here today, to keep a global spotlight on this problem.
Today is a moment where we collectively double down on our commitment to eliminate all forms of child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence.
GOAL, as an organisation, has worked extensively on the protection of children, women and girls in Sierra Leone using community engagement and safeguarding approaches. Since 2017, GOAL has worked with communities across the country to help adolescents and young people realise their potential through peer-to-peer mentoring, adolescents, and community dialogue sessions, mainly to address the cultural practices and other factors contributing to teenage pregnancies and the worst forms of child exploitation and abuse. With support from the EU, we and two great organisations who I would like to mention (WHI & SLLC) have implemented a project on eliminating the worst forms of child labour, child trafficking and promotion of decent work that led to the review of the Anti-trafficking Act 2025 to include key components in the protection of victims and the maximum penalty of the perpetrators.
As a member of the INGOs Forum, and the Chair of the Irish Consortium on Gender-Based Violence (ICGBV), GOAL will continue to advocate and work closely with the Office of the First Lady and other institutions committed to ending child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence in Sierra Leone and globally.
As I conclude, ladies and gentlemen, I want to recognise the leadership of our President, Dr. Julius Maada Bio, and the first ladies of Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Angola once again for standing here today united in breaking the silence and creating even greater awareness about the danger of sexual exploitation and abuse. Your leadership truly matters.
I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile’.
Thank you for listening.