Liberia: SGBV Campaign Ends with Candlelight Vigil, Solidarity Poems

It was both an enthralling and emotional night at Smart-Liberia headquarters in Monrovia as scores of women rights activists and gender advocates gathered to climax the 16 Days of Activism – with poems highlighting resilience, victimization, and courage, as well as calls for women empowerment.

The awareness-raising campaign recognizes the many ways in which all women experience gender-based violence, including the experiences of rape, torture, murder, and the broad spectrum of women, mostly from vulnerable populations.

“There are different means by which we get healed when we are hurt. Some people heal through writing and it is therapeutic. While others express it through talking or crying. These are great ways to get rid of our pain most of the time.” Mrs. Brenda B. Moore said. “Writing is another way of expressing the pains and agony that people go through. It is a shame that women and girls were still being abused even during the course of the campaign.”

The gathering, which was treated by 16 poets, was an emotional night for many as it highlighted the level of abuses that women endure daily. 

“How long will we cry before rape is treated with the necessary attention?” one of the poems asked, while another inquired: “How long will we wane in agony before it is truly seen as a national emergency?”

Read in three phases, some of the poems highlighted the injustice that victims of sexual abuse and other forms of violence are grappling with. One of these poems was read by poet Blessed Cudjoe, which looked at the lack of access to justice in the face of perpetrators walking with impunity or going unpunished. 

Titling her poem “Stop It,” Cudjoe questioned the whereabouts of justice in the face of brutality against women and girls.  However, some poets of the night decide to bash or slam society for stereotyping women and calling them demeaning names while ignoring the level of stress that society imposes on those women and girls.

In keeping with the #WeAreUnprotected campaign action, the 16 Days of Activism in Liberia was climaxed by a candlelight vigil — a display which draped the hall in dark and orange — the flame of the burning candle.

The 16 Days of Activism, which is an annual international campaign kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. 

In Liberia, the campaign consisted of a series of nationwide events that honored women and girls whose lives have been affected by or lost because of gender-based violence.

The gathering at Smart Liberia, according to Brenda Brewer Moore, Executive Director of KEEP was meant for healing, a show of solidarity, and support to women and girls, especially those who have survived the menace of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, poems by  Angel Clay and Majorie Kollie highlighted exploitation and the need to bring perpetrators to justice as a way of ending impunity; violence, and exploitation that affect women and girls and shrink their space.

The Poets demanded empowerment for women so that they can broaden their space and become productive.

A guest poet of the night was Atty. Mmonbeydo Nadine Joah, Executive Director/Legal Counsel of Organization for Women and Children ORWOCH, read a personal experience of sexual exploitation she endured at the hand of a close and familiar person during her childhood.