Gov’t Urges to End SGBV

Women activists pose for a photo after the indoor program.

-- Kick-off 16-Day of Activism in Buchanan

Top women-led organizations under the campaigns, “#WeAreUnprotected” and “Enough Excuses”, have kicked off this year’s 16 days of activism in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, calling on the government to take more action to end violence against women and girls in the country.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign period to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November to 10 December for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

The “WeAreUnprotected” Campaign was established in 2018 by women-led groups and individuals to call for complete accountability of the damaging report of sexual abuse at the More Than Me School in Monrovia, which was founded by an American lady to help give Liberian girls quality education. 

This year’s global campaign is held under the theme: “End Violence Against Women Now!” and national theme: “Enough Is Enough! Let’s Act Now to End Violence Against Women, Girls, Children and Other Marginalized Groups.”

Executive Director of Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), Naomi Tulay-Solanke, said the campaign is focused on creating more awareness on issues affecting women and girls.

“From November 25 to December 10 every year, women’s rights activists, and rights defenders come together to talk about issues affecting women and girls -- issues like domestic violence, emotion abuse, sexual harassments, rape, harassment in work places and many others,” Mrs. Tulay-Solanke told the audience.

“We can be more than what men think about us. Today, we are in Grand Bassa to identify with you and to tell you that the issues that affect you in Grand Bassa are not only unique to Bassa but happening across the world and right in Monrovia. Again, the government is having a similar program in Margibi County and we are all in this together,” she added.

However, data obtained from the MGCSP indicates that in 2019, a total of 2,708 cases were reported of which 2,141 (79%) accounted for rape, gang rape and sodomy accounted while 567 (20%) for other forms of GBV. Sixty-eight percent out of the 79% were survivors below the age of 18 years which is far less than the 2020 statistic.

Within just nine months of the following year, in which coronavirus hit the country, (between January- September 2020) 1,715 GBV cases were reported. Of the total 1,388 or (80%) constitutes Rape, Gang rape, and Sodomy. 151 (8.8%) accounted for other forms of GBV. While 477 GBV cases were reported in the third quarter of 2020.

Out of the total cases recorded in the third quarters of 2020, rape account for 312 or 65%, physical assault or domestic violence accounts for 11.9%, and sexual assault account for 7.4%.

The MGSCP data also shows that rape, sodomy, and gang rape 69.7% was the highest reported GBV incident follows by sexual assault 11%. Child rape accounted for 64% of the total GBV cases reported during the three months period.

The record further shows GBV actors provided medical and psychosocial services, security or protection, legal aid services, and made referrals for 477 GBV survivors during the third quarter of July, August, and September 2020.

Madam Brenda Moore, Executive Director of Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP), also wants the government to use the power of the state, the Constitution and laws, as an opportunity to invest and enforce a non-negotiable position on women rights and a commitment to advancing gender equality in Liberia.

Mrs. Moore added that the government should ensure full implementation of the Domestic Violence Law as it has been three years since the law was passed, until three months back, 80 percent of the Magistrates, which operate Courts of first instance, had no knowledge of the law. 

“Establish a committee that includes a CSO representative to regularly monitor MOJ staff, including LNP officers, prosecutors, judges, and public defenders, and ensure they are held accountable for any crime, misconduct, or any malpractice that has hampered accountability for rape,” Mrs. Moore said.

“We call on the Government to improve response to survivors of SGBV and acknowledge the work of the Survivors support coalition. Safe homes are underfunded and non-functional and many survivors do not seek justice for fear of their lives. Many survivors walk long hours to get to police stations that are understaffed and are unable to even report because the police officer does not have any form of transportation or fuel for the motorbike,” she added.

Jefferson Goul, a representative of the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police, wants women to always report violence perpetrated against them by men.

“Please report any violence you to the police and we will be there to assist you. Additionally, you observe that within the community that a child or anyone is raped; go to the nearby health center for treatment first before reaching to the police,” Mr. Goul told the women and girls.

Grand Bassa County Coordinator of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), T. Clarence Carter, said ending violence against women and girls requires the efforts of everyone and warns against compromising the violence against women and girls. 

“This should not be only the government, civil society organizations or the Liberia National Police but everyone, especially the community’s dwellers and the best ways of fighting violence against women and girls is by reporting it to the police and not discussing it as a family matter,” Mr. Carter said.   

Atty. Mmonbeydo Nadine Joah, Executive Director of Organization for Women and Children,  Alfreda Foboi Nmah, Advocacy and Communications Manager of Helping Our People Excel, respectively.