United Nations
United Nations 27 Nov 2020

Isha Sesay: The fight to end violence against women, female genital mutilation and child marriages


Press Conference by Natalia Kanem, UNFPA's Executive Director, and journalist and writer, Isha Sesay, who was introduced today as UNFPA's newest Goodwill Ambassador.

In this new role, Isha Sesay will help raise awareness about the global scourge of violence against women and girls and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation.


Award-winning journalist and author Isha Sesay became a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador in the fight to end violence against women, female genital mutilation and child marriages.

As an anchor and correspondent at CNN for more than a decade, Sesay broke the story of the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria in 2014. She was the only journalist on the ground to accompany 21 of the girls back home in 2016. Her reporting was the driving force behind the global #BringBackOurGirls movement.

"UNFPA could not have anybody more determined and passionate at our side to uphold women and girls' rights, especially their right to live free of violence and abuse," said Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in a virtual press conference on Wednesday (25 Nov).

"Ms. Sesay has dedicated her life and career to upholding the rights of women and girls, and to lending her voice to issues at the heart of the UNFPA mandate. She is the partner that UNFPA needs as we take the road to 2030 and as we fight to end maternal deaths, to end unmet need for family planning and, of course, to end gender-based violence and harmful practices," Kanem said.

In her family's home country of Sierra Leone, Isha is the founder and head of W.E (Women Everywhere) Can Lead, an NGO that works to empower, educate, and support adolescent girls in fulfilling their full potential.

"I am from Sierra Leone and I'm also from a family in which my grandfather - one of his wives was someone on whom it was performed FGM she was what we call a cutter," said Sesay. "And so I come from a family where this practice is known. My mother has served as a survivor from a country where up to 90% of women are subjected to FGM so this is an issue that I'm very much going to be taking on as a Goodwill Ambassador with the UNFPA team."

Her nomination to UNFPA Good Ambassador came at the onset of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign to end abuse and discrimination against women and girls. According to the UNFPA, violence continues to rise amid the pandemic, with 15 million additional instances of gender-based violence projected for every three months of lockdown.

"I just really want to say that as we marked today the beginning of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, we have to come together and as UNFPA we are already saying enough. Enough to all forms of violence against women and girls, and I'll be using, you know my voice, and my privilege and my position in the months and years ahead to ensure that message is heard loud and clear," Sesay said.

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