The African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) has appointed Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone as the Africa Champion for Sanitation and Hygiene.
She was unveiled on 26th May 2021 at the State House, Sierra Leone, in presence of the President of Sierra Leone, his entire cabinet and other development partners. In this new role Her Excellency will lead and support advocacy for improving policy and practice towards accelerating access to sanitation and hygiene on the African continent.
In his keynote address, Dr. Julius Maada Bio, the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone congratulated the First Lady for her appointment noting her work on women empowerment. “Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene especially for women and girls is critical to their wellbeing, domestic needs, reproductive and menstrual health,” he said. “The WASH policies and programmes have not always included the voices and needs of women and girls.”
President Bio added that as a country Sierra Leone believes that women should be central to planning, designing, implementing, managing and assessing the impact of water and sanitation interventions.
“As a country we are truly proud of how AMCOW is shaping continent wide policies in water, sanitation and hygiene,” the president added. “I look forward to AMCOW Secretariat’s formal launch of the Africa Sanitation Policy Guidelines (ASPG) in June this year.”
Mrs Bio is a Pan Africanist with a passion for development issues affecting the continent. She is a strong believer in women empowerment. She has recently launched the Free Sanitary pads initiative for schoolgirls in Sierra Leone, to compliment the government’s free quality education initiative. She has also flagged off the campaign, “Hands Off Our Girls” to raise global awareness on reducing early marriage and rape in Africa.
In her acceptance speech, the First Lady said, “hygiene and sanitation are very important, I am accepting this appointment to serve Sierra Leone and Africa as a champion for sanitation and hygiene. I will not only work with one country but with Africa and I look forward to the support of my husband to succeed in this new role.”
On his part, the Acting Executive Secretary of AMCOW Mr. Thomas Banda believes this appointment is timely for Africa. Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Mr. Banda said, “it is our sincere belief that the passion with which the First Lady approaches the ‘Hands off Our girls’ project, her campaign to improve menstrual health and hygiene and her contribution towards ensuring that the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) creates greater impact across the continent will be used to raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene to improve access to the over 700 million Africans who do not have access.”
The role of the Africa Champion for Sanitation and Hygiene is honorary support to AMCOW. However, AMCOW has entered a formal agreement with H.E for a period of 4 years from 2021 to 2024.
AMCOW is an intergovernmental, Pan-African, non-budgetary institution working under the Specialized Technical Subcommittee of the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) of the African Union. AMCOW provides political leadership, policy direction and advocacy on water management and provision of sanitation services.
AMCOW has the responsibility to effectively and efficiently coordinate actions of key water and sanitation players, facilitate the strengthening of regional cooperation and transboundary water resources management and development as well as build the capacity of relevant institutions and agencies. AMCOW is mandated to provide political leadership in the implementation of the African Water Vision 2025 and water components of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.