In a powerful and impassioned speech delivered on the sidelines of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatima Maada Bio, brought global attention to the pressing issue of gender-based violence.

Addressing a diverse audience at the side event titled “First Annual Free Future 2023: Preventing Gender Violence Around the World,” hosted by the Ford Foundation in partnership with the Government of the United Kingdom, the First Lady captivated listeners with her inspiring words and shared the success story of her groundbreaking campaign, “Hands Off Our Girls.”

The event, held on Thursday, September 14, 2023, served as a platform for the First Lady to shed light on the critical challenges faced by women and girls in Sierra Leone and beyond.

Her speech resonated with attendees, comprising world leaders, diplomats, activists, and representatives from various organizations, as she highlighted the transformative impact of the “Hands Off Our Girls” movement in championing the rights of women and girls in her country.

The First Lady emphasized that the campaign had sparked nationwide conversations and civic education on crucial issues, including menstruation, which were previously surrounded by stigma and silence. By breaking the taboos associated with menstruation and empowering girls with knowledge and resources, the movement has successfully kept girls in schools, preventing early marriages and combating the pervasive issue of rape.

Moreover, the First Lady has taken the campaign to a global level by spearheading the successful adoption of two UN resolutions aimed at protecting women and girls. These resolutions have gained international support and recognition, further amplifying the fight against gender-based violence.

In her speech, she stressed the need to ignite actions that would strengthen these resolutions into treaties or conventions, providing comprehensive legal framework to address gender-based violence on a global scale.

In a clarion call for the United States to take a leading role in addressing the global scourge of sexual violence, the First Lady urged the nation to step up its efforts and join forces with the international community to combat this pervasive issue. She emphasized that collective action, cooperation, and a shared commitment were essential in creating a world where women and girls are safe, empowered, and free from violence.

“Gender-based violence knows no borders, and it is our duty as responsible nations to stand together and protect the rights and dignity of every woman and girl,” stated the First Lady during her address. “We need to start thinking of transforming the UN resolutions into a strong treaties or conventions that will provide the legal framework to effectively address gender-based violence worldwide. I call upon the United States to play a leading role in this critical endeavor.”

The First Lady’s speech garnered widespread acclaim, with many praising her commitment and dedication to tackling gender-based violence. Her advocacy work resonated deeply with the audience, further bolstering the global call to action against this pervasive issue.

The side event, organized by the Ford Foundation and the Government of the United Kingdom, aimed to provide a platform for leaders and activists to exchange ideas, share best practices, and foster collaborations in the fight against gender-based violence.

As the First Lady of Sierra Leone continues to champion the cause of gender equality and the rights of women and girls, her impactful speech at the UN General Assembly serves as a rallying cry for change. By sharing the success of the “Hands Off Our Girls” campaign and her efforts in spearheading UN resolutions, she has ignited a global movement to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.

The First Lady’s call to transform the UN resolutions into a treaty or convention highlights the importance of creating robust legal framework to address gender-based violence on a global scale. Such treaties or conventions would provide comprehensive sets of guidelines and standards, promoting accountability and ensuring the protection of women and girls in every corner of the world.

The First Lady’s passionate plea for the United States to step up and address the global scourge of sexual violence further emphasizes the need for international cooperation and leadership in combating this issue.