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P. Vandi: Statement on the International Day of Families

Statement by the Hon. Minister of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children's Affairs, Sierra Leone
United Nations International Day of Families
Celebration at the National School of Nursing Hall, Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 15, 2010

Let me convey greetings from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs for inviting our ministry to make a statement during the celebration of the United Nations International Day of Families. Secondly, I want to tender apologies on behalf of the Hon. Minister and Deputy Minister for their absence due to other engagements of equal importance. However, the Hon. Deputy Minister has requested that I deliver this statement on their behalf.

The United Nations announced the International Year of Families in 1994. it was basically a rejoinder to shifting communal and fiscal structures, which have affected and still have an impact upon the structure and steadiness of family units in many countries of the globe. The International Day of Families, on May 15, helps us build on the work started during 1994 and rejoice the significance of families, people, civilizations, and cultures around the world. It has been held every year since 1995.

The theme for this year “Challenges to Security of the Human Family,” is very significant and timely. Human security is concerned with the preservation of human life and their safety in a changing world. It is an alternative way of seeing the world because it challenges the basic precepts of military security. Instead, it takes concepts like democracy, human rights, social equity, and the elimination of poverty as essential elements of human security.

The family constitutes the basic unit of society and therefore deserves special attention. Hence, the widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to families so that they may fully assume their responsibilities within the community, pursuant to provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, the Declaration on Social Progress and Development, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to mention but a few.

Activities planned for the celebration of International Day of Families should aim at promoting impartiality, bringing forth a fuller sharing of household responsibilities and service opportunities. The Ministry therefore calls on all development partners to support families in the execution of their duties and responsibilities in a bid to community and national development initiatives. This celebration is similarly expected to bring out the significance of families as fundamental units of humanity and provides a chance for governments, organizations, and individuals to encourage knowledge of troubles, strengths, and wants of families.

As a Ministry, we remain fully committed to the promotion, protection, and advancement of women and children with principal aim of bringing gender equality. To achieve this, we are guided by the policies on Gender Mainstreaming and the Advancement of Women, National Gender Strategic Plan, the Government’s Agenda for Change, and the National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325&1820.

Furthermore, we have the Family Case Work Unit in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, whose primary responsibility is to mediate between and among members to ensure peaceful co-existence. We are very mindful of the fact that when peace reigns within the family it can transcend to the community and the society at large.

The establishment of the Family Support Units within the Sierra Leone Police is another important institutional mechanism to address some of the injustices that are meted against men, women, and children within the families. Our social workers are placed within the Family Support Units to work alongside trained FSU Staff in joint investigation of domestic and sexual violence cases. People are now sensitized on the need to report abuses to the Family Support Units. The Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sierra Leone Police in December 2003.

Efforts have been made by government through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in the legislation of gender sensitive laws. You may recall that on 14 June 2007 three Gender Justice Laws were passed in Parliament, namely: the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act, Domestic Violence Act, and Devolution of Estates Act. These Acts, if properly implemented, will change the power and gender dynamics within the family and the community at large. The Child Rights Act was similarly passed on 7 June 2007 in Parliament, which clearly spells out the roles and responsibilities of the government, parents, and children to promote the core values of child survival and development without discrimination.

Let me use this opportunity to congratulate the Universal Peace Federation for observing this day and wish all of us a happy International Day of Families.