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Wednesday, 06 March 2013

UN organizations, Cherie Blair Foundation, support women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone

FREETOWN/VIENNA, 6 March 2013 – A high-level delegation arrives in Sierra Leone today at the start of a four-day visit that aims to support the empowerment of women in Sierra Leone, and advocate their crucial roles in achieving broad-based economic growth and consolidating peace efforts.

The delegation has been invited by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations County Team, and will be led by Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS; and Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

On 8 March, the delegation will participate in a conference, commemorating International Women’s Day, jointly organized by UNIDO, UNDP and UN  Women. The event will recognize and draw international attention to the active involvement of women in Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development, as espoused through the President’s Agenda for Change, and the new policy direction, Agenda for Prosperity.

Members of the delegation will also hold separate meetings in relation to their areas of specialization to address issues related to the post-2015 development agenda, as well as to highlight global challenges such as the nexus between energy access and health, economic empowerment and climate change.

“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. The involvement of such organizations as the World Health Organization, UN Women, UNAIDS, and UNIDO is vital for Sierra Leone,” said Director General Yumkella.

He added that, just a few years ago, Sierra Leone received the lowest rating in the Human Development Report. “This is why women’s empowerment and economic diversification are crucial if the country is to chart a new course for prosperity in the post-2015 context. The Government of Sierra Leone is working with UNIDO and other UN organizations to address the constraints that prevent women from participating in and benefitting from economic development,” said Yumkella.

Other delegation members include Mamadou Diallo, UNAIDS’ Regional Director; Maria Neira, WHO’s Director of Human Environment; Tigest Ketsela Mengestu, WHO’s Director of Health;  Susan McDade, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative; Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO, Azuri Technologies; and Robert Healey, co-founder and President of the Healey International Foundation.

Yumkella said that the initiative to organize the visit to Sierra Leone was conceived last year, at the Rio+20 summit in Brazil, when he discussed it with WHO Director General, Margaret Chan. Yumkella also convinced a range of dignitaries and heads of UN agencies to send representatives to participate in the mission in support of gender equality in Sierra Leone.

Yumkella thanked Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, Executive Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL); Mia Seppo, UNDP Country Director; and Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO Country Representative, for helping organize the mission, and facilitating several meetings and teleconferences.  

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