*SIERRA LEONE REACTIVATES COMMITTEE AGAINST GENDER BASED VIOLENCE WITH AN ENHANCED MANDATE FROM HON. DR. SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN.*
By Mahmud Tim Kargbo, Abdul Malik Bangura and Joseph Nbompa Turay.
Honourable Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, has this morning Friday 11th November 2016, revitalized and re-energized Sierra Leone’s national fight against Gender Based Violence in Sierra Leone through a resumption of meetings of the defunct National Committee against Gender Based Violence (NaC-GBV) but this time the Committee has been given an enhanced mandate that will encompass more gender issues.
The resumed and enhanced NaC-GBV meeting which took place at precisely 10:00am inside the Ministry’s conference room at New England Ville saw a large number of heads of international partner agencies join the Honourable Minister from this morning until after noon, in deliberating on the setting up of proposed strategies including various committees that will oversee the fight against Gender Based Violence in the country.
Speaking, the Honourable Minister said the NaC-GBV national committee was first setup many years ago in 2008 as evidence of the gender sensitive vision of His Excellency the President but that various factors including the Ebola outbreak had caused a lull in the meetings. She also lamented that the necessary political leadership was not applied to the committee and so it was always chaired by deputy directors and assistant directors. This, she said was not acceptable to her as the fight deserves high profile leadership. Hon. Blyden lamented the current lull in promotion and protection of women around the country and therefore said that she is now taking the fullest possible responsibility as the sitting Cabinet Minister to not only re-instate the NaC-GBV meetings but as from now, she will also be giving very high priority to the process by ensuring she serves as the permanent chairperson of the National Committee that will bring on board all the United Nations agencies and other partners.
The Hon. Minister said she will ensure her currently immense national visibility and stature is deployed towards enhancing the awareness of the seriousness of the issues affecting women and children – She said her national stature will now be applied towards bringing to light all Gender Based Violence issues and other related gender issues. She promised that it will be done with a committed sense of proffering solutions to those problems.
“This re-energized committee is going to my baby and I am going to provide hands-on leadership because I want to see visible results in the gender sector. The gender agenda is now reinvigorated!” Hon. Blyden asserted to loud applause.
The mood in the conference room amongst participants was very positive, high and hopeful. Enthusiastically throwing support for the decision of the Honourable Minister were the following United Nations country representatives for UN WOMEN Mary Okumu, UNICEF Geoff Wiffin, UNFPA Dr. Kim Dickson, FAO Dr. Tito Tipo, WFP Madam Kinday Samba as well as Country Representatives of OXFAM, Save the Children and International Rescue Committee.
Another pleasant presence were of five visiting members of the British Parliament who accompanied the UNFPA Country team to the two hours long meeting.
Also present and making salient contributions were members from the Justice Sector Coordination Office (JSCO) and the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police.
Director of Gender Mr. Charles Vandi, also gave a historical run down of the history of the NaC-GBV committee and pledged the support of his entire Gender Directorate towards the efforts of their minister in pushing gender issues to the front of the ministry’s priorities. The acting Permanent Secretary Osman Kanu welcomed the guests and also assured of strengthening of the collaboration between the Gender ministry and partners.
Meanwhile the meeting saw the establishment of sub-committees that will help the minister oversee the fight against causes of Gender Based Violence in the country. These committees are: Media & Data Management Committee, Legislative Issues Committee, Psychosocial, Livelihood & Health Committee and last but not least, the Security Prevention & Protection committee.
The meeting ended with fervent promise from all the partners and representatives to help the Minister in tackling causes of Gender Based Violence in Sierra Leone.