Women NGOs-Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) has lauded the celebration of 16 Days of Activism in Liberia.
“As we commence the celebration in observance of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence under the theme, “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls” with “National Theme: “With one voice, let’s end violence against women, girls and children.”
Executive Director Madam Esther Davis Yango, in a statement over the weekend, thanked various international partners, including UN Women, Carter Center, Kvinna till Kvinna, bilateral partners and WONGOSOL Network Organizations for making numerous contributions to promote gender equality and combat Gender Based Violence in Liberia.
Madam Yango said the fight wouldn’t have been possible without them, adding, “We also want to thank the Government of Liberia for the efforts made so far to address Gender Based Violence. Violence against women and girls remains the most prevalent human rights violation around the world, of which Liberia is of no exception.”
She noted that the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection reported 1,761 cases of GBV of which 68.08% accounted for RAPE. Liberia is a patriarchal society surrounded by entrenched corrupt culture, rigid social norms, and various challenges at community and personal levels that discriminate against women and girls, making it difficult for survivors to access justice, which contributes to the increase of SGBV against women and girls in Liberia.
She also noted high level of impunity, thus resulting in communities settling violence cases out of legal proceedings (settling the family way).
Director Yango said the Government of Liberia is a signatory to international protocols and has domesticated so many international and regional frameworks, policies and laws that protect and promote women and girls’ human rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, (Maputo Protocol) and the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (Pillar One: Power to the People – which highlights gender equity as a strategy to eliminate GBV and other social inequalities of women and girls in particular).
She lamented that lack of political will of the government to implement these laws fully is very alarming. This year and in previous years, Liberia experienced high violence against women and girls, with sexual violence being highly reported.
She maintained that SGBV being the most underreported crime in Liberia, the true scope of this problem is almost unimaginable as reported cases represent just a fraction of the incidences. Gender-Based Violence occurs in all sectors of our society, ranging from RAPE, Domestic Violence, Child Marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, offensive touching (sexual assault), forced prostitution, wife inheritance and forced slavery.
” Rape pandemic in Liberia seems to be taking a new gruesome trend, accelerating from gang rape, and rape of babies and extending to reported abduction and subjection of girls to sexual slavery. Domestic violence, ritualistic killings, and other forms of violence are also high, given that this issue is alarming and coupled with other negative effects on the lives of survivors”, Director Yango alarmed.
She pointed out that WONGOSOL is concerned that the government doesn’t have a plan to address this situation, urging that government should employ a holistic approach to addressing domestic violence and sexual and gender-based violence, covering key thematic value chains of SGBV prevention, protection, health, legal, and psychological, considering the culture of social norms and masculinity, and situational factors.
She noted that there is currently limited capacity for GBV service delivery in Liberia, adding that government should adequately fund the SGBV roadmap developed and adopted during the 2021 inter-ministerial national Anti-Rape conference held at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, outside Monrovia.
She also called for adequate resources towards community-based and community-led prevention, psychological and economic empowerment activities, targeting at-risk girls and women as well as SGBV survivors.
Besides, Director Yango said 2022 also witnessed what appeared to be a new dawn in the transitional justice process of Liberia, noting that for the first time since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report in 2009, there is high level of interest from international partners (most especially the US Government) to ensure transitional justice in Liberia.
Director Yango said the weaponization of sexual and gender-based violence from the civil war still persists in today’s society with hundreds of untold stories of violence and abuse of women, girls and children who are looking up for reparations and justice in totality.
“As we observe the 16 Days of Activism, we are encouraging everyone to get involve, together we can put an end to Gender Based Violence in Liberia!” She added. Editing by Jonathan Browne