On Thursday 13th August 2015, the dead body of a 17 year old girl named Hannah was found naked along the Aberdeen Beach in Freetown. Hannah was believed to have been raped and killed. Two months ago, the body of a brutally raped and murdered 18 year old banana seller was found in an unfinished building in Regent in Freetown.
ActionAid joined other pressure groups from all walks of life to take part in a solidarity march along the beach in Freetown on 20 August 2015. The objective of the march was to demand for justice to prevail in the face of the various rapes and murders of women in the country in recent months including the alleged rape and brutal murder of Hannah.
We want justice, justice for Hannah, justice for women, real men don’t rape, and wearing short skirt is not an invitation for rape, the women and men who all wore black and held lite candles, shouted.
The procession of the march started from the Aberdeen Round About and ended where the dead body of the girl was found at the beach. Statements were made by the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police Force Francis Munu who assured the women that they will do their best to ensure that the investigations are meaningful and justice is served. The Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, Moijueh Kaikai also affirmed the Ministries commitment to this issue.
The grandfather of the deceased a Retired Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) said that he used to be Hannah’s guardian until he was transferred by his office to Pujehun in Southern Sierra Leone. After his transfer, he learnt that Hannah absconded from home where he had left her with her aunt and had gone to live on the streets. Her mother Mariama, who also attended the march, said that she could no longer take care of Hannah after the death of her father.
Harsh economic difficulties in the country have pushed many girls like Hannah into the streets and sometimes into commercial sex work. However that does not justify anyone to rape her, let alone kill her. Weather they are homeless or sex workers, they also have rights. Any kind of brutality to a woman or a girl is a violation of human rights and therefore it should be condemned and justice should be done.
ActionAid used the solidarity march to popularize the Safe Cities Campaign in Sierra Leone and ensuring that public spaces are safe for women and girls. The Safe Cities Campaign is a global five-year (2013-2018) initiative promoting the safe public spaces in cities and towns for girls and women.
In Sierra Leone all women are vulnerable to abuse in the public no matter how they are dressed due to societal perceptions that women are sex objects. Levels of violence against women remain a cause for concern in the country and a major barrier to women’s participation in development. Women running petty trades in public spaces are living in fear of being abused every day. The blood of Hannah is crying for justice and may her soul rest in eternal peace! #SafeCitiesBecause #WeAreAllHannah