By Sahr Ibrahim Komba

The United Nations Women Sierra Leone (UN Women-SL) have engaged traditional and religious leaders to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) by advancing advocacy, policy and social norms change.

The Regional Consultation with traditional and religious leaders to end gender-based violence against women and girls took place at the Atlantic Lumley Hotel in Freetown on 16th April 2024.

Speaking at the event a representative from the Inter Religious Council, Rabai Tamba Eric Mbayoh thanked the United Nations Women for the initiative in bringing traditional and faith leaders in the fight against Gender Based Violence. He said the Inter Religious Council has played a significant role in advocating for peace and democracy and human rights in the country. He noted that the Council has also engaged different leaders on the dangers of GBV and how to prevent the same in the country. He said that the council has pledged its unweaving support to the UN women in the fight against gender-based violence.

Speaking on behalf of the Council of Paramount Chiefs, Paramount Chief Fayia SB. Sovula said that the Council of Paramount Chiefs is committed in working with UN Women in the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in the country. “Our responsibility as custodians of our lands is to foster peace and security with no form of discrimination, tribalism, regionalism amongst others, and we will stand tall in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence in our communities,’’ he said.

He assured UN Women that they will work in collaboration with faith leaders and form task force groups in different communities to eradicate GBV. He emphasized their commitment in the fight against GBV adding that they will organize sensitization campaigns in educating the public about the dangers of SGBV against women and girls in different communities across the country. He furthered that they will develop bye laws at community level and also report cases of SGBV to the police and will monitor until the matter is prosecuted in Magistrate or High Court.

In her statement, the Minister of Social Welfare, Madam Melrose Kaminty said that SGBV issues remain a serious concern in the country. She disclosed that the government of Sierra Leone through her Ministry has made significant progress in repealing and amending laws that protect women and children in the country adding that the country is signatory to many international laws that protect women and children. She admonished traditional and faith leader to be steadfast in the fight against SGBV noting that traditional and faith leaders have huge number of people who are loyal to them. Your involvement in the fight against SGBV will take us a long way she added.

The Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, Madam Seraphine Wakana expressed thanks and appreciation to all the participants for their unweaving commitments in the fight against SGBV. She said that SGBV remains a big problem adding that 60% of married women SGBV related issues in Africa. She noted that SGBV undermines growth, equality and development in any country. She furthered that traditional practices that discriminate against women and girls must be transformed into something for the development of all in society. She said that UN Women stands tall in ensuring the prevention of SGBV and the promotion of gender equality in the world. She urged authorities to work together in the prevention of SGBV adding that everyone must play a role in the elimination of harmful stereotypes and discrimination against women and girls in society