Saturday 14th March, 2015 was a moment I have locked in my memory. Teenagers from 14 schools in Freetown vowed not to stigmatise Ebola survivors, vowed to say no to early teenage pregnancy, and vowed to report incidents of sexual violence.
This came about during a one day seminar on Ebola stigmatisation, teenage pregnancy and rape organised by Bright Light Youth Empowerment at the National Youth Commission in Freetown.
The aim of the seminar was to prepare the minds of young people on how to approach Ebola survivors ahead of schools reopening in April. The platform was also used to advise teenagers to refrain from early sex and be bold to report incidents of rape in schools and their communities.
As chairman of the seminar, I advised participants to stay in school and to refrain from any act of stigmatisation of Ebola survivors. One of the fundamental universal human rights emphasises that everyone is born free and equal.
Ebola survivors are brave, courageous and should not be stigmatised.
The seminar also gave me the opportunity to motivate young people to join the MamaYe campaign and to inform them about the latest statistics on maternal deaths among young people in Sierra Leone, teenage pregnancy, early marriage and sexual violence. This information about their peers is so important, yet participants were not so familiar with it.
The one day seminar also painted a clear picture for the young people to understand that the leading cause of teenage pregnancy is early sex, and this should not be a priority during their teenage years.
Let girls be girls not mothers
First Lady Sia Koroma once said.The high point of the seminar was when young people committed to support their colleagues who are Ebola survivors when schools reopen. They also maintained that they would stay in school, say no to early sex and report incidents of sexual violence.
Other highlights included musical performances, the distribution of hand sanitiser, and a statement from the main sponsor of the event, Online Business Communications general manager Foday Sankoh.
In my estimation, the seminar gave young people the opportunity to understand why they should not stigmatise Ebola survivors, the negative impacts of teenage pregnancy, and what they should do in case they are victims of sexual violence.
As a bonus, they also learned about MamaYe!