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UN team visits Sierra Leone to support women’s empowerment

Women and children near the village of Kychom in Sierra Leone, January 2012.
Mikhail Evstafyev/UNIDO
Women and children near the village of Kychom in Sierra Leone, January 2012.

UN team visits Sierra Leone to support women’s empowerment

Ahead of International Women’s Day, a team of United Nations agency representatives arrived in Sierra Leone today to support gender equality and to gain international attention for a new national policy meant to recognize the critical role of women in achieving broad-based economic growth and consolidating peace efforts.

“This mission is a unique demonstration of the UN ‘working as one’ on one hand, and a great example of partnership with civil society and the private sector, on the other,” said the Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Kandeh Yumkella.

Mr. Yumkella is leading the delegation along with the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, and the founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Cherie Blair, at the invitation of the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN system in the country. The team also includes representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Women.

During the visit, the UN officials will participate in a conference marking International Women’s Day on 8 March, which aims to draw international attention to the active involvement of women in Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development through the President’s Agenda for Change, and the new policy direction, Agenda for Prosperity, according to a UN press release issued today.

The policy is meant to lift some of the constraints preventing women from taking part in and benefitting from economic development in Sierra Leone. The country ranks as one of the lowest on the Human Development Index produced by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“Women’s empowerment and economic diversification are crucial if the country is to chart a new course for prosperity in the post-2015 context,” Mr. Yumkella said.

The UN officials will also meet with Government and civil society in their respective areas, and discuss health, economic empowerment and climate change.

For 11 years, Sierra Leone was torn by a civil war after the rebel Revolutionary United Front intervened in an attempt to overthrow the country’s then-President Joseph Momoh.

The conflict, which lasted from 1991 to 2002, was often punctuated by acts of extreme brutality as marauding bands of armed youths terrorized the countryside, conscripting child soldiers and using the amputation of limbs as an intimidation strategy.