The chief executive director of Women Initiative Network (WIN) Davidetta Davis calls on young women and girls in Liberia to stand firm in the fight against rape and to take self-initiatives in combating gender- based violence in the country. WIN was founded on May 19, 2017 to challenge women and girls to become proactive in the fight against rape.
According to Madam Davis, the formation of the Network came after she read a South African drama series titled “Dancing Queen” that illustrates a story about a young beautiful South African girl, who was raped, but decided not to tell her story to anyone.
“When I got through reading the drama series, I realized that there are many young beautiful women and girls who might have gone or are going through similar condition but decide not to speak out”, she noted.
She said there are some young women and girls who might want to speak out their stories of being raped but do not want to take self- initiative by reporting cases to relevant authorities, rather choosing to remain mute and await pressure from parents or community leaders.
Speaking in Monrovia at an Anti Rape Speaker Series Program held in the conference hall of the Muslim Congress High School on Mechline Street, Madam Davis stated that in as much as national government and international partners have joined the fight against rape and other gender based violence issues in Liberia, young women and girls must also take self-initiatives by reporting any issue of rape to help combat the crime and deter who-be perpetrators in society.
She stressed a need for young women and girls to create a medium through which to educate and inform people in society, especially teenagers, who are on the average being raped so that they will learn how to report rape cases to relevant authorities, and also learn preventive measures.
“Rape is a serious issue in the country, and we all know about it. It is happening right around us. We see and hear about babies being raped. I do not think it is about sexual pleasure because how men can create sexual feelings for a baby? It’s totally insane and we must stand firm to protect our girls by creating the awareness, informing them on the necessary preventive measures and also cautioning them to stand up and report rape cases, which will help to prevent ourselves.”
President George Manneh Weah has declared rape a national emergency through proclamation. The President also appointed a Special Prosecutor for rape and established a national “Sex Offenders Registry.”
Madam Davis said gender based violence stands to destroy the future of young women and girls in society, lamenting that issue of gender equality in the country will not be realized because there might not be many girls to compete with their male counterparts in any given opportunity, because girls who are being raped loss enthusiasm to return to school due to trauma.
Speaking to one of the participants Freena S. Kokoi, 15, a10th grader of the Williams V.S. Tubman High School, expressed gratitude to the founder and members of WIN for organizing such a unique platform that affords opportunity to teenagers like herself to listen to the meaning of rape and how it could be curtailed.
“Well, I must be grateful to God Almighty for having me as one of the participants in this program, and I have learned lot of things about rape and how to prevent myself and my community. And one key message that I gathered was, to speak out whenever someone is being raped”, Kokoi said.
According to the teenager, speaking out or reporting rape cases should not only be left to victims, but also community dwellers, noting there are some victims who might not want to speak out due to threats from perpetrators or even family members.
Little Kokoi added that it is important to stand up and be an advocate of rape and gender based violence. People must not wait for the victims to come out before reporting cases to relevant authorities because it might gives the chance to the perpetrator to escape, citing they should always create awareness that will provide the education to young girls on the issue of rape and gender based violence.
She also pointed that lack of information and education are contributing factors to rape and other gender based violence in the country, and suggested in order to succeed in the fight, community residents should equally be informed and educated on the subject matter.
Kokoi wants information dissemination prioritized so that people will learn how to carry on all necessary preventive measures for the betterment of the Liberian society. Editing by Jonathan Browne