-Gender Minister Tarr
Liberia’s Gender, Children, and Social Protection Minister Whillemina Saydee Tarr says, violence against children, and adolescents remains a daunting challenge for her ministry, and the country at large.“Violence against children and adolescents, especially girls, including rape, abuse, harassment and exploitation remains a daunting challenge”, she says.Minister Tarr spoke Wednesday, June 9, in a news conference held at the ministerial complex in Oldest Congo Town, outskirt of Monrovia, ahead of celebrations for the Day of the African Child.
“As we gear towards the commemoration of the Day of African Child (DAC), the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with the Children’s Representative Forum and members of the Child Protection Network would like to inform the public that Liberia will join the rest of the world on June 16, 2021 in observance of the day”, Whillemina reveals.
Celebration of the Day of the African Child (DAC) arises from Resolution No: CM/1290 of the Heads of States Summit of the then Organization of African Unity [now the African Union] held in Abuja, Nigeria in June 1990.
From that summit, it was declared that the 16th day of June every year be celebrated as the Day of the African Child to commemorate the death of hundreds of school children who were massacred in Soweto, South Africa, by the then Apartheid Regime in June 1976.
The children protested against the inferior quality of their education and demanded their rights to be taught in their own language.This year’s celebration is on the global theme, “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children.”
Liberia is commemorating the day under a National Theme: “Promoting Positive Arts, Culture and Heritage to accelerate the implementation of the Agenda 2040 in making Liberia a better place for children”.
The Gender Minister says Liberia being a member of the AU, has also organized series of activities in commemoration of the Day which is expected to focus on the global 2040 Agenda that provides a platform to reflect on the African Continent’s flagship development agenda.
As part of activities marking the DAC, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, in collaboration with the Child Protection Network of Liberia (CPN) and the Liberia National Children Representative Forum (LNCRF) will on Monday, June 14, 2021 in Sanniquelle, Nimba County begin roll out of key activities which will include, Advocacy Campaign, Visitation to Orphanages, Disabilities’ Homes, Historical Sites and Presentation of Gifts.
She adds that day-II, Tuesday, June 15, will be characterized a national children conference to help children effectively engage policy makers and state Actors for the implementation of Laws and policies that protect children, and also to create equal opportunities for all children, including those with disabilities and in institutional care as enshrined in the Liberian Children’s Law.
While in Nimba County, the conference will bring together children from all 15 counties, child rights advocates and activists to formulate action plan in protecting children from abuses, including sexual gender based violence, physical assault, neglect, and trafficking, among other vices.
The celebration will be climaxed here on Wednesday, June 16 with an official indoor program that starts with a parade through the main streets of Sanniquelle, Nimba County. The activities have been drawn to give children the platform to speak about issues affecting them in the 2040 Agenda for sustainable development and the African Children Chapter.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Gender recounts that in 2020, a total of 2,240 Gender Based Violence cases were reported with rape and gang rape constituting 1,546. However, Montserrado County with the largest population, recorded a whopping 1,073 cases, amounting to 78.8% of the total number of cases, while Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties recorded 185 and 167 cases respectfully. Minister Tarr laments that it is even troubling to note that rape and sodomy constitute 1,462 cases, gang rape, 84 cases; sexual assault, 191 cases and physical or domestic violence, 323 cases.
“While we have recorded a considerable reduction in the GBV statistics from a total number of 2,708 cases reported in 2019 to 2,240 in 2020, it is therefore worth mentioning that this fight against violence against women and children remains a collective endeavor in ensuring that our society is free from the scourge of rape and all other forms of violence against children”, she urges both parents and policymakers.
By Lewis S. Teh–Editing by Jonathan Browne