How Effective is The Hands Off Our Girls Campaign?

First Lady, Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio, will always be remembered for her resilient effort to introduce the “Hands Off Our Girls” campaign in Sierra Leone almost four years ago.

The campaign initially took off ground nationwide with a bang and the Sierra Leone Judiciary complemented the effort of the First Lady by establishing a special court to deal with those culpable of sexual abuses such as teenage pregnancy and sexual penetration.

Consequently, many offenders were tried in specialized courts and given long-term jail sentences as deterrents to potential offenders.

Notwithstanding, the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign no longer has the momentum it had during the initial stage of the campaign as teenage pregnancy continues to be on the rise in the nook and cranny of the country.

In Freetown and the provinces, for example, hundreds of teenage pupils are dropping out of school daily because of pregnancy. What is more nauseating is the inaction of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to apprehend suspects responsible for impregnating teenage girls. Instead, they will compromise the matters with the suspects and parents of the victims even though they know that their actions are illegal.

Such compromise in the cases of teenage pregnancy and sexual penetration has culminated in early marriage and prostitution, thereby ending the educational journey of unfortunate teenage girls.

Sierra Leoneans seemed to have forgotten about the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign because the Office of the First Lady is more focused on other projects that are probably yielding more dividends than the campaign.

Initially, the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign was visible in all sixteen political districts in the country but today, people hardly talk about it as teenage pregnancy and early marriage continue to blossom by the day. The campaign has lost its momentum and we believe the Office of the First Lady should reactivate it to protect our teenage girls who are the future of this country.

As much as we respect the First Lady for her clarion call to Sierra Leoneans to desist from sexually abusing teenage girls, we also expect her to sustain the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign to save our teenage girls instead of allowing it to die naturally.

Traditional leaders that are supposed to be on board the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign are equally not doing enough to end the sexual abuse of teenage girls.

In the provinces, for example, you can see teenage girls, who are supposed to be in school, being pregnant and married with the approval of the so-called chiefs and parents of the victims and perpetrators. Such sexual abuses have become a tradition in most of our communities and our chiefs and parents of the victims and perpetrators are aiding and abetting them with impunity.

If truth be told, the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign would never succeed without the fullest cooperation of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), traditional rulers, parents, guardians, and the general public who are supposed to be the custodians of our teenage girls in school.

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That is why we believe the Office of the First Lady should review the campaign to know what has gone wrong to strengthen the campaign to become effective again for the benefit of our teenage girls countrywide.

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