By Kruah Thompson
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in partnership with local NGOs has visited several communities in Montserrado county to monitor and evaluate implementation of ongoing comprehensive Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) prevention strategy.
The SGBV prevention strategy was developed as part of the Spotlight Initiative (SI) under Outcome 3 of the SI Results Framework to educate community dwellers about harmful social norms practices, and other forms of gender-based violence in the country.
The director for sexual and gender-based violence at the ministry of gender, Viola H. Cooper, expressed delight the project is proceeding as planned.
She said the initiative is 95 percent working for community residents because evaluation shows they are receiving positive responses, which implies that most of what was learned during training had been implemented at the community level.
The executive director for one of the partnering organizations, George King Sleeves said the challenge has been lack of continuous support.
“If you want to sustain a project that means when you start it, you have to continue it. Probably not with the same budget, but maybe with a lesser budget to be able to maintain the structure,” he said.
According to him, from July 2020 to now they have been no direct donor support but added that UN Women has been channeling support to the ministry of gender and other CSOs including the system for providing Aid to help sustain the project.
The chairman of Samukai Town, Upper Caldwell, Montserrado county, Clarence A. Zayzay applauded the spotlight initiative, saying through training, the community has set up series of activities to help minimize SGBV cases.
“For us at the community level, we used to judge a lot of cases on domestic violence, but since they came in that has been minimized,” Chairman Zayzay added.
Vamuyah A. Dully the Chairman of the Vouson community in Brewerville also indicated that the program has been a serious eye opener for them.
According to him, after the training from the UN EU spotlight initially, the community set up a task force to monitor all SGBV cases and after their intervention, the issue of SGBV in their community has also been reduced.
“The rape issue is no more in our community because we are working in line with the ministry of gender to handle rape cases in our community. once someone is accused of rape in our community, we usually report them to the police”, he indicated.
However, the Executive Director of the United Funding and Development for Underage Mothers (UFDUM) Meki D. Lamar, encouraged members of the community to continuously practice community policing, as they tackle FGM issues.
“Just a few days ago, a little child was raped and she lost blood, at a result of this, the little girl died but we want you to make sure that your children are protected”, she advised residents.
She indicated that a few years ago, the U.N. funded the EU spotlight initiative, which focused on the book titled Comprehensive Prevention Strategies which talks about ending violence against women.
Copies of the book were shared among those who participated in the training.
Some residents outlined how the book has helped them in addressing issues of SGBV.
During the visit, Director Lamar asked residents if they are engaging in awareness to which they responded yes.
Chairman Dully in his response said the community usually does awareness on teenage pregnancy and other forms of violence against women twice weekly.
“One of the main things we are dealing with is some men pregnant our daughters and leave them without support,” he noted.
Meanwhile, in Liberia, FGM is a large component of the initiation rituals of the Sande society, which operates bush schools for young girls where FGM is performed by zoes, who are often also traditional women leaders, local birth attendants, and/or hold other leadership positions in society.
The Liberia Demographic and Health Survey has recorded high rate of early marriage, with 38% of women aged 20–24 having been married before the age of 18; and 40% of women aged 15– 19 wedded before age 14.
According to the 2013 Survey, the median age for first-time sexual intercourse is 16.2 for girls in Liberia, and 18.2 for boys, with some 31% of women age15–19 already involved in childbearing and by 18, this rises to 52%.
Early childbearing increases risk for both adolescent mother and child, with a higher likelihood of maternal death, and life-threatening sexual and reproductive health (SRH) consequences, including HIV infection.
However, the one spotlight initiative was launched on June 19, 2019, in Tiene, Grand Cape Mount County to eliminate all forms of violence against women and children in Liberia.
Liberia’s spotlight initiative is funded by the. The US$15.8 million initiative funded by the European Union, focuses on reducing prevalence of SGBV, harmful practices, and increasing demand for access to sexual and reproductive health services. Editing by Jonathan Browne