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The 10th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, convened by the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights and organized by Purposeful Sierra Leone in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone,on Monday, June 27, opened at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, with a youth pre-conference, organized under the theme "Accelerating the Elimination of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Africa."

Speaking at the official opening of the event, UNFPA Representative in Sierra Leone, Ms. Nadia Rasheed, said UNFPA is committed to working with stakeholders, including governments, civil society, youth-led organizations, to accelerate progress towards ending gender-based violence and creating spaces for youth voices to be heard on all issues that affect them.

Ms. Rasheed said that in line with its transformative agenda to accelerate progress towards ending gender-based violence, UNFPA was proud to co-sponsor the conference and support the participation of over 175 young people.

a couple of women standing in front of a crowd of people

"This conference is an incredible opportunity to connect with other young people and with leading experts and policy makers from across the continent. It is an opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills, be exposed to different perspectives and fuel your advocacy on the issues you are most passionate about," she told the more than 350 participants from 41 African countries.

Ms. Rasheed noted that Africa is home to 130 million girls and women who were married as children, 140 million girls and women who have undergone FGM and 40 million girls who have undergone both harmful practices," but that despite efforts and commitments to end gender-based violence, it remains a serious problem, preventing young people from reaching their full potential. 

Officially opening the conference, Sierra Leone's Minister of Youth Affairs, Hon. Mohamed Orman Bangura said the time has come to invest in youth and promote dialogue and understanding across cultures and generations, which would advance human rights for all. "To ensure that development policies benefit all, we must be based on human rights. We must promote and protect the human rights of all youth, especially the most vulnerable," said Minister Bangura.

man speaks into a microphone

He called on leaders to listen to the voices of youth, invest in them and ensure that they are part of all decision-making processes. "It is time to bring the voice of youth to the UN Summit in September, where leaders will review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals," said Minister Bangura.

Chernor Bah, co-founder and co-CEO of Purposeful Sierra Leone and host of the conference, also spoke at the event. "We are a feminist organization. It is exactly because of a moment like this that Purposeful was created. We believe in young people. We are especially excited that almost half of the delegates would be young people who are leading the change and who are the reason we started Purposeful as an organization," Bah said.

The conference brings together civil society, governments, UN agencies, human rights activists and development partners for a dialogue on a common approach to ending violence against women and girls in Africa.

Media Contact:

John Baimba Sesay | Web and Media Analyst | UNFPA Sierra Leone | Tel +232 30953193 |