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Sierra Leone News: Ahead of Int. Day of the Girl Child…UNFPA holds Adolescent Girl Symposium

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Irish AID have on the 7th October, 2016 organised Adolescent Girls Symposium with the theme: Invest in Girls for Progress in Sierra Leone: Improving Data for Girls’ Empowerment.
According to Sonia Gilroy from UNFPA, with support from Irish Aid, they (UNFPA and partners) have been able to organise the symposium in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child which is on the 11th October each year stating that the 2016 celebration theme is Girls Progress = Goals Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement.
She said the symposium was organised for girls who have overcome tremendous challenges in order to continue their education to share their experiences, challenges and aspirations as student and young mothers so that stakeholders, policy makers and partners will be able to come up with policies that will close those gaps which they (the girls) have raised.
“We need adolescent friendly policies not just for our girls but for our boys as well; Policies that will tear down barriers to education, health services, nutrition, and achieving personal wellbeing”, adding that they recognized the value in ensuring that no girl is left behind stating that they will use the outputs from the symposium to strengthen their qualitative data to inform future similar interventions.
Giving the keynote address, UNFPA International Operations Manager, Mrs. Lucy Kadewere said she will like to draw the audience attention to goal five of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls stating that “the achievement of all of other goals such as poverty, hunger and related issues can be fast tracked by prioritizing goal five.”
She said the theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child highlights the fact that without achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls none of the other goals can be realized.
Madam Kadewere said girls in particular are faced with numerous challenges, from lack of access to education to poverty, hunger, to harmful practices such as child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation, to gender based violence and teenage pregnancy stating that unfortunately, there are many gaps in data that limits their ability to effectively communicate and address these challenges.
She noted that the theme present an opportunity for them to consider how their inability to adequately measure and understand the challenges girls face limits their ability to make informed policy and programmatic decisions.
The UNFPA International Operations Manager said among other intervention by UNFPA in Sierra Leone, they are working to enhance the country’s capacity to collect, analyse and utilize population data at national and sub-national development planning stating that is evident in their recent work in supporting the Government to conduct the 2015 Population and Housing Census among others.
Among other things the Director, Non-Formal Education, Ministry of Education, Mrs. Olive Musa said was that this year’s celebration provoked them to ask and answer a number of questions including how can they invest in their girls such that the outcomes are visible in significant changes in their lives?
She said they are already investing in the girls through diverse programmes in various sector of their economy, in education, health, child protection and livelyhood stating that the Ministry is keen to provide fully for their future through education.
While the Country Director of Irish AID, Miss Michele Bornstein was encouraging the girls to tell their own story so that informed decision can be made in solving the issues, Mrs. Olayinka Laggah from the National Commission for Children, Rev. George Buannie Executive Director Fine Sierra Leone and Representative from the Ministry of Social Welfare were encouraging the girls and giving them hope.
The participants, who were mostly girls than boys shared their experiences , challenges, talent, hopes and aspirations as members of society with regards their education, gender based violence, teenage pregnancy, child marriage among others.
By Emmanuella Kallon
Monday October 10, 2016

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