Honourable Minister Dr. Sylvia Blyden Thanks UNICEF
BRIEF REMARKS BY HONOURABLE DR. SYLVIA OLAYINKA BLYDEN, MINISTER OF SOCIAL WELFARE, GENDER AND CHILDREN’S AFFAIRS DELIVERED AT THE MSWGCA-UNICEF MID-YEAR REVIEW ON 4TH AUGUST 2016.
The UNICEF Country Representative,
Esteemed Child Protection Partners,
I am particularly delighted to deliver brief remarks at this Mid-year Review of UNICEF Child Protection Programmes. On behalf of the Government and Children of Sierra Leone, I will like to acknowledge with gratitude the tremendous support of UNICEF in addressing Child Protection issues and concerns across Sierra Leone. UNICEF’s support was particularly evident during the Ebola outbreak and the post-Ebola recovery period and I daresay that without UNICEF, my last few months as a new Minister, might not have been the success that it has been. I am grateful and I thank you UNICEF.
Distinguished Participants, this review meeting is intended to present and discuss progress relating to my Ministry’s specific outputs. On my part as Minister, this Review Meeting will avail me with the opportunity to fully understand the status of implementation of my Ministry’s Specific Outputs. You might be curious as to how come the ministry’s Cabinet Minister is hoping this review will help her understand her ministry better. Let me explain.
Since I assumed Office as Minister in charge of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, I have been working endlessly to translate His Excellency’s vision for the Children of Sierra Leone. Sadly, my task was made difficult by few detractors in my Ministry who have demonstrated utter unwillingness to cooperate in moving the Ministry forward in a correct, right and proper direction. This situation was further exacerbated by the deliberate action of my predecessor, the erstwhile Minister of Social welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs to do a proper handing over to me. Not even a scrap of paper was handed over to me. I met even the shelves in the Minister’s cupboard bare and stark empty. He took everything away. Nevertheless, as a dedicated and passionate believer in His Excellency’s vision for children, I have worked very hard, remained focused and committed to my task of transforming the Ministry into a Ministry that will deliver effective services for women, children, disabled and other marginalized groups in society.
Distinguished Participants, the recently concluded Staff Retreat organized by my Ministry, presented a unique opportunity for me to understand the issues and challenges for Child Protection. Although the Retreat was primarily intended to discuss the Case Management, VSAT Internet & Information Management System among others, it however revealed a myriad of challenges for Child Protection generally. Issues of capacity, oversight, coordination and cooperation among Child Protection Partners were noted as underpinning factors. What is also obvious is the fact that the Child Protection Systems, including the Case Management Information Systems has failed – failed primarily because of corruption in provision of VSAT Internet Services we contracted AFCOM company to deliver.
Distinguished Participants, I started off by thanking UNICEF and at this point, allow me to specially cite on behalf of the Government of His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma that we deeply appreciate the cooperation that UNICEF has rendered to the Sierra Leone Police who are now investigating AFCOM and some criminal conspiracy by staff of my Ministry. I regularly receive an update and briefing from the Criminal Investigations Department on the status of the complaint that I filed to them and as of last evening, the police investigators were full of praises for the excellent collaboration that they have received from UNICEF in the course of them investigating this complaint of Criminal Conspiracy and Misappropriation of Donor Funds.
Having said that, let me state that the challenge of the criminal activities behind the failed CPIMS and CMIMS systems is just one of a plurality of challenges. Resolving those myriad of issues therefore requires collective action and cooperation among Child Protection Partners. As the Minister responsible for Child Protection amongst others, I am more than willing and committed to facilitate the process of strengthening the Child Protection Systems. Under my leadership as Minister, there is both the Political and Administrative wherewithal to move the process forward. I repeat; Under my leadership as Minister, you have both the Political and administrative wherewithal to move the process forward.
Distinguished Participants, my Ministry is determined to deliver on His Excellency’s Priority Plan. However, the delivery of the Ministry’s Priority Initiatives is largely dependent on the existence of a robust social work force that will deliver effective social services to vulnerable groups including children. The Ministry will continue to count on UNICEF and related Child Protection partners to strengthen the capacity of the social work force.
Distinguished participants, as I end my remarks, let me use this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to promoting and protecting the rights and well-being of every Sierra Leonean child in every nook and cranny of this our great country. I know this is a daunting task, but together with you all inside this room, we can surely achieve His Excellency’s vision for not only Sierra Leonean Children but also, our Women, Disables, the Aged, Ebola Survivors and Other Vulnerable and Marginalized citizens in our society.
Let me now end by thanking you all for your attention and let me once again express my deep personal gratitude to UNICEF: Thank You. Thank You and Thank You to UNICEF.
May the Almighty God guide us all as we now review our joint progress together in protecting the Children of Sierra Leone.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.