The Secretary-General’s Message for the International Day of Peace

This year we mark International Day of Peace as we prepare to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This foundational document is a reminder that peace takes root when people are free from hunger, poverty and oppression and can thrive and prosper.

With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our guide, we must ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I encourage you to speak up. For gender equality.  For inclusive societies.  For climate action.

Do your part at school, at work, at home. Every step counts.

Let us act together to promote and defend human rights for all, in the name of lasting peace for all.

Empowering adolescents through Girls’ Clubs

By Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist, UNFPA Sierra Leone


PUJEHUN, Sierra Leone, 20 August 2018 – Sierra Leone ranks as the 18th country with the highest prevalence of child marriage globally, with 38.9 percent of girls married before age 18 among 20-24 years, and 12.5 percent married before age 15 among 20-24 years (DHS, 2013).

Sierra Leone is one of 12 countries implementing the Joint UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage to reach girls who are most at risk to adolescent pregnancy and child marriage. Through the joint programme, UNFPA supports the Women in Crisis Movement (WICM) – a local non-governmental organisation in Sierra. WICM works to empower vulnerable women and girls through better reproductive health, skills training and safe spaces. With funding from the Government of Canada, UNFPA established 160 safe spaces in districts where child marriage is most prevalent (Port Loko, Kambia, Bonthe, Tonkolili, Koinadugu and Pujehun).

Safe spaces generally are girls-only spaces, as public spaces are often inhabited largely by men and boys. Community halls, dedicated programme spaces, school classrooms and youth centres are often used as safe spaces.  The girls helped to map the locations where they felt safe and obtained permission to use those spaces. Each safe space includes a Girls Club with 25- 30 girls who are placed into two age groups: 10-14 years and 15-19 years. The girls meet regularly and receive support from community stakeholders. In the programme, girls who are interested in developing their skills, have higher levels of education, and show leadership potential are identified as mentors. They are trained to lead and mentor the girls in the clubs and are paid a small sum to raise awareness of the programme within their communities. The mentors deliver a curriculum and act as role models for the girls. The programme includes health and social workers who provide services and provides a social network for the girls.

Child advocates

One such girl to benefit from the Girls Club is Munda Rogers, now 20-years-old, from Sumbuya, Bessima Community, Old Town Pujehun District, who served as a mentor. Munda joined the girls Club in Pujehun town and was one of the child advocacy leaders in her community. She proved to be one of the most active members in the district, advocating particularly on girls’ empowerment, upholding girls’ rights and the elimination of teenage pregnancy and early marriage.

When asked how being a mentor benefited her, Munda stated, “Before my selection as a mentor, my parents found it difficult to pay my school bills due to their low financial status. My father is elderly and cannot afford the costs of my education while my mother is left to pay for me and my siblings. This situation placed me at risk of early marriage and teenage pregnancy but thankfully, the Girl’s Club saved me from early pregnancy and marriage. My selection as a mentor by the Women in Crisis Movement was a blessing to me and my family, because the monthly stipend enabled me to pay for my schooling and help out with the bills at home.”

Mentoring for success

Explaining the benefits of mentoring, Munda said, “There were a lot of girls whom I mentor in the club and awareness among them increased significantly. We provide information on reproductive health, family planning, HIV, dangers of early marriage and teenage pregnancy. The use of the life skills modules has provided age specific information for my club members.

The project is reaching over 1000 girls in my district alone. Awareness is raised and still raising against early marriage and teenage pregnancy. In addition, as far as I am aware, none of the girls in my club has been pregnant or married yet.

The skills training component of the project for school-drop outs has helped a lot.  Some young girls were doing nothing and just depending on men for their survival, but since they joined the club, most of them are now engaged in meaningful activities. For example, through the hairdressing and catering courses, many are earning a living to support themselves and their families.

There are other mentors like me who are able to continue with their schooling due to monthly stipend and other educational support they receive from the programme.”

In 2017, with UNFPA support, approximately 7,333 vulnerable girls received life skills education on child marriage, teenage pregnancy and other harmful practices, and 340 mentors were trained.

National stakeholders workshop kick-starts roll out of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Sierra Leone

By Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist, UNFPA Sierra Leone


FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 17 August 2018 – A two-day national stakeholders workshop took place to discuss the way forward for the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education in Sierra Leone. The national workshop, which brought together key stakeholders from across the country, was organized by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Keynote speakers included the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School, Mr. Alpha Timbo and the Canadian Minister of International Development, Ms. Marie-ClaudeBibeau.

Comprehensive sexuality education is a curriculum-based method of teaching and learning about the different aspects of sexuality. It equips young people with scientifically accurate information about sexual and reproductive health. It goes beyond information, to encourage confidence, improved communication skills and critical thinking skills to make conscious, healthy and respectful decisions about relationships and accessing health services. Comprehensive sexuality education is gender-sensitive and firmly grounded in human rights. It empowers children, adolescents and young people to achieve their right to education about their bodies, relationships and sexuality.

Delivering the keynote address, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Mr. Alpha Timbo stated, “With proper implementation, comprehensive sexuality education has been proven to reduce dropout rates by helping to reduce adolescent pregnancy.” He added, “The purpose of comprehensive sexuality education is not to remove all our cultural values in our societies but to merely come together and think of how we can incorporate comprehensive sexuality education within these values that we hold so dearly.”

The main objectives of the workshop included, orienting national stakeholders on comprehensive sexuality education; informing stakeholders about the latest evidence and best practices in comprehensive sexuality education; and lastly, establishing a technical working group to oversee the process of developing comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, training materials, advocacy and training.

Attending the workshop as a special guest speaker, Canadian Minister for International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau said, “The Canadian Government continues to be at the forefront to end the practice [of child marriage]. “Comprehensive sexuality education will give girls the knowledge they need to decide when and whom they marry,” she added.

Global and regional momentum around comprehensive sexuality education has resulted in increased political commitment. The Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development calls on governments to provide sexuality education to all manner of people including adolescents, specifying that such education should take place both in schools and at the community level, begin as early as possible, foster mature decision-making and aim to eliminate gender inequality.

Working in partnership with other UN agencies, UNFPA has contributed to the “International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education” developed jointly with UNESCO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UN Women and WHO. The evidence informed document provides countries with guidelines on how to adapt international best practice on the key concepts, topics and learning objectives for comprehensive sexuality education. UNFPA is also leading on development of the ‘International Technical Guidance on Out of School Comprehensive Sexuality Education’.

The African Union acknowledges the importance of sexuality education and services for young people as enshrined in the Maputo Protocol and the African Youth Charter. In 2015, the African Union recognized comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education as one of five key recommendations to fast track the HIV response among young women and girls in Africa.

Sierra Leone has also made international commitments to the introduction of quality sexuality education at the Family Planning 2020 Summit in 2012. This commitment is reflected in both the Education Sector Plan (2018 – 2020) and the revised National Strategy for the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy and Child Marriage (2018 – 2022).

Delivering her remarks, Dr. Kim Eva Dickson, UNFPA Sierra Leone country representative said, “International evidence time and again tells us that comprehensive sexuality education is most effective when it is executed well and delivered alongside access to quality youth friendly adolescent health services, and when parents and community stakeholders are engaged to support adolescents to access sexual reproductive health information and services.” Dr. Dickson stated that UNFPA in Sierra Leone will continue to provide continued technical assistance to the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to ensure that a quality comprehensive sexuality education curriculum is designed, that teachers are adequately trained and that school environments are safe. “UNFPA is committed to supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to build the national evidence base on comprehensive sexuality education as we move forward,” she added.

The workshop concluded with participants in agreement on key strategic actions pertaining to community advocacy, curriculum revision and teacher training which will be presented as recommendations to the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.

The UN Resident Coordinator’s speech on the anniversary of the Landslide and Flood Disaster – 14 August 2018 in Regent, Freetown

Certain events in our lives are so momentous that we shall always remember where we were and what we did when those events occurred.  Many of us will surely remember where we were in the early hours of 14 August 2017, when we received the news of the mudslide in Regent.  It turned out to be one of the worst natural disaster in Africa in recent years, and  there is no doubt that the impact on the individuals affected and on the community was both dramatic and profound.  No-one who has seen the devastation caused on 14 August last year, the loss of life and the effect on survivors could avoid being touched by the situation.

I am sure we shall never forget the terrible events that unfolded early on that Monday morning, just as we must not forget those who perished in the disaster, or indeed survivors who may still be suffering from trauma and those, who have lost loved ones.

I would like to pay tribute to all those men and women, who went to the site from the early hours, and for several days, to help in the search and rescue efforts, who were out digging through the mud and debris in the hope of finding survivors.  I pay tribute to all those who helped care for the survivors by bringing food, shelter and other critical supplies to meet basic needs, and indeed those who helped provide for those, who lost their lives.

I commend the national leadership ,from the highest levels down and for taking swift action, through the National Security Coordinator and the Office of National Security to bring all critical actors together to  responded rapidly to a complex crisis.  The disaster brought about, yet again, a clear demonstration of the ability of the international community to work closely together in partnership with the national authorities to support the Government-led response.  I am very pleased to note that the UN family were also among the first responders.

The United Nations, as One, played its part both in the immediate response and in the recovery phase, supporting the Government in carrying out required damage, loss and risk assessments, and preparing recovery strategies, both for the immediate, medium, and for the longer term in disaster prevention and management, and urban and environmental planning.

According to the World Risk Report 2017, Sierra Leone ranks in the top 15 most vulnerable countries to disaster risk worldwide, and disasters, both natural and man-made, have destroyed or, at the very least, severely disrupted the achievement of Sierra Leone’s development objectives during the most recent decates. A catalyst for change, the mudslide disaster of August 2017 raised awareness about prevention and preparedness, as well as the critical need for longer-term environmental protection.  It is our hope that all future investments in sustainable development will be risk-informed.

In partnership with the Office of National Security, the United Nations is engaged in disaster risk management in order to enhance resilience to natural and man-made disasters in the most vulnerable communities in Sierra Leone. UN support improves national and local capacities to anticipate, plan and mitigate the effects of disasters. 450 volunteers from affected communities were enlisted in cash-for-work resilience building activities, over 200 District Disaster Management Committees have been trained, and hazards have been mapped out in all 16 districts, with focus on improving the capacity of community volunteers as front-line responders.

We want to use this opportunity to call on all Sierra Leoneans to follow in the footsteps of the courageous, dedicated and resilient people of the affected communities.

Remediating the landslide area, part of the Freetown Emergency Recovery Project, is supported by the United Nations with funding from the World Bank. Established in August 2017 to support the government’s resilient recovery programme, it aims to rehabilitate and rebuild damaged infrastructure, and strengthening disaster risk management and early warning capacities.

The landslide remediation project entails technical studies, environmental, social and economic assessments needed to ensure that all environmental and social safeguards have been considered – identifying and removing rocks in precarious positions, re-profiling slopes through earthen removal or addition, rationalizing and formalizing river beds and re-planting trees.  Also following support from the UN, many of these trees will carry fruits and nuts to benefit the surrounding community and reduce the likelihood of them being felled for firewood.

The global Sustainable Development Goals officially came into force on 1st January 2016, setting the wheels in motion to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all by 2030. Disaster prevention is very much part of longer-term sustainable development.  We are pleased, therefore, to see that disaster prevention, together with the environment, is the focus of one of the clusters being organized to implement the eight priorities determined by the Government, and urge the Government to hold the issue high on its agenda as an integral part of the national development planning, just as the SDGs should be firmly at the centre of national development.

The UN Country Team in Sierra Leone – with 15 resident UN agencies, funds and programmes, three non-resident agencies, and the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank –  will continue to build our work, together with our many partners in Sierra Leone to ensure that Disaster Risk Reduction remains a cross-cutting necessity in the country’s national development process, and new development agenda.  We are also pleased to see that the Mayor of Freetown and the Freetown City Council are addressing the issue as an urgent priority.

Indeed, prevention and preparedness are best ensured in times when there is no crisis. Therefore the issue should not receive attention only during the rainy season, but should continue to be addressed with urgency even when the rains stop.

On this day, as Sierra Leone remembers the thousands of people affected by last year’s disaster, and the significant destruction and damage to critical infrastructure that occurred as a result of it, I am here to tell you that the UN family in Sierra Leone stands ready to lend whatever support possible to the development of policies and to their implementation for the short, medium and long term, working together to close the energy gap, enhance national prevention and recovery capacities, and promote lasting, nature-based solutions for a sustainable and even more resilient Sierra Leone, so that together we can ensure that no-one is left behind.

Thank you.