Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma stressed his commitment to increasing women's participation in his government during an event on 8 March, celebrating International Women's Day in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He said that the many appointments of women to high positions his government has sent “a clear message that discrimination against women no longer has a place in Sierra Leone.”
He said, “My government will enact legislation for a 30% quota for women's participation in governance pretty soon. Gender is not just a social issue but also a development issue. And so we recognize the fact that men and women have to work side by side to achieve sustainable development.”
UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé participated in the event which aimed to draw international attention to the active involvement of women in Sierra Leone's socio-economic development through the President's Agenda for Change. Dr Kandeh Yumkella, UNIDO Director General and Cherie Blair, head of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women also attended the event.
Mr Michel Sidibé praised the President for his remarkable leadership and said “Sierra Leone's transformative agenda is geared towards the creation of social justice”. But he added, “if Sierra Leone wants a sustainable agenda, it must put women on the forefront of its reform agenda”.
During the Women's Day celebrations, the government of Sierra Leone and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria concluded a new funding agreement, providing US$ 55 million for HIV screening, prevention and treatment in Sierra Leone. The agreement was signed in Freetown by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on behalf of the Executive Director of the Global Fund, Dr Mark Dybul and the Minister of Health of Sierra Leone, Miatta Kargbo.
“President Ernest Bai Koroma is helping to transform the UNAIDS vision of Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths into a reality for Sierra Leone,” said Mr Sidibé.
He urged the President to harness this same commitment to stopping gender-based violence—a risk factor for HIV among women in Sierra Leone and challenged the authorities to do everything possible to end practices like child and sexual trafficking.
A representative of the Woman Coalition on Health and HIV said “Women further seek increased and meaningful involvement of women especially women living with HIV in all spheres of the national response.”
In Sierra Leone, efforts to prevent new HIV infections among children have been strengthened and coverage and access of services for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV is now at 74%.