Mr Hindolo Pokawa, a Sierra Leonean walked 315 miles from Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone to the capital, Freetown to campaign against rape. He was dubbed as a “HeForShe Gender Equality Champion” by the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) in Sierra Leone, Mr Babatunde Ahonsi.
Mr. Pokawa related that during his 21-day walk, he had the opportunity to elicit conversations on gender equality and protection of women and girls. One of his motivations for the walk was to advocate against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on behalf of women and girls in Sierra Leone. He referenced Khadijah Saccoh, a five-year-old girl, who was raped and killed in July 2020 and has since become a symbol of the fight against SGBV in the country.
The RC congratulated Mr. Pokawa and his companion, Mr. Dustyn Montgomery for their HeForShe efforts, indicating that he is excited to hear about such strides in gender equality and women empowerment movement in the country. Mr. Ahonsi commended Mr. Pokawa’s efforts as timely, particularly during a time when some gender equality indicators in Sierra Leone are comparatively worse than in other countries in the region. The RC added that there is a strong need to equalize opportunities for men and women, boys and girls if the country’s development aspirations are to be met.
“If we are to become a middle-income country by 2035, these matters would have to be addressed,” said the Mr. Ahonsi. Rape is an expression of dehumanization of a human being with a discriminative purpose. “Therefore, the fight to end rape is a fight to create a new society with revised values, and your [Mr. Pokawa’s] efforts are important to break the curtain of silence.”
He also mentioned that the UN in Sierra Leone has identified the protection of the most vulnerable, including women and girls as a strategic priority, articulated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for Sierra Leone -2020-2023. Moreover, the RC encouraged Mr. Pokawa to engage young people to strengthen the impact and improve the sustainability of the Gender Equality Walk, to ensure an inter-generational engagement.
The UN Women Head of Office, Ms. Sètchémè Jéronime Mongbo, who was also present at the ceremony underscored the importance of awareness-raising and advocacy, adding that Mr. Pokawa’s efforts should continue, particularly on SGBV.
The ceremony took place at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Fourah Bay Close in Freetown.