Amid the increasing number of cases of sexual gender-based violence and other human rights abuses in Liberia, Her Voice Liberia Inc., a non-governmental human rights institution, has taken its legal aid Clinic to Arthington and other parts of rural Montserrado County.
The aim of this intervention is to buttress efforts the national government in tracking, reporting and ensuring the prosecution of issues of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), human rights abuses and providing legal aid support to victims of SGBV during the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking in an interview via telephone with the Daily Observer on August 10, 2020, in Monrovia, Atty. Margaret Nigba, Executive Director of Her Voice Liberia, said the organization’s intervention is predicated upon the numerous challenges that women face when it comes to SGBV in the rural part of the country, especially during these challenging times.
She disclosed that the entity of late visited five communities, namely Arthington, Clay Ashland, Kormah, Jarlu Town, Barcon town and Tarr Farm. According to Atty. Nigba, the organization will vigorously monitor issues of SGBV in rural Montserrado County.
“We have about 30 monitors that we are working with in various communities; they are currently on the field and have reported to us over the past times the high increase of SGBV and also human rights abuses that are taking place at a general level.”
Atty. Nigba added that Her Voice Liberia also provides pro-bono legal aid services to women and children and indigent people.
She attributed the high number of SGBV cases to the lack of security, the issues of road network especially during the rainy season. She explained that most of the time when people commit these crimes against women, they get away easily. She further recalled that a few years ago the only police station in the administrative district was gutted by fire and, since then, there has been no security presence.
“With our intervention in recent times to identify these cases, our monitors report to us and furthermore verify the issue and make sure these cases are made available and forwarded to the Liberia National Police as soon a possible,” Atty Nigba stated.
She described the community relationship with the entity and the LNP as wonderful. “When we first launched the aid clinic recently, we signed MOU with the police and, based on that, they have assigned four police officers in the area,” Atty Nigba said. “We had at least 2 to 3 cases that we have transferred to the LNP to be able to address.”
She further disclosed that the organization, with the support of its partners, is expected to go back in the area by next week to do renovation work on the police station which was gutted by fire a few years ago.
“I think renovating the police station is going to ensure that the place is comfortable for police officers who are assigned there to be able to reach out to people as well as address problems.”
She narrated some of the comments from the inhabitants, mostly women, who said, “we feel disappointed because of the constraints such as financial issues, bad road network, lack of electricity, and insecurity, among other basic necessities.”
She, however, acknowledged that while it is the truth that there are constraints, most of the women were very much excited to see the organization’s intervention in the rural areas to address some of the problems.
Meanwhile, Atty. Nigba said following Her Voice Liberia’s intervention, the community has decided to put themselves together to help boost the strength of the police. “They are now working with us for a task force that will be able to support the police effectively,” she added.
“Since we visited the place and came back with our monitors, we have been having a very cordial relationship with the inhabitants there.”
However, when asked why she thought it was important to select Arthington, she replied, “it was because Arthington is a place where the administrative district is situated and it was easy to find the court as well as the police station.
According to her, community members have agreed to make available at least two persons from each of these communities to be able to set up a task force that will respond adequately to address some of these issues the people are faced with. She described the role of the community as cardinal to this process because the police alone cannot do it all, therefore the support of the community can make a difference.
“We visited Todee before, but we do not have the kind of funding to reach everywhere for now; so our major concern and priority is that we do what we are able to do, and get a good result. We need more players on the field and these players need to be compensated and this is one of our challenges,” Atty. Nigba said.
The entity is, however, calling on philanthropists, especially those who are interested in women accessing justice in the country, to support their endeavors. “We want them to reach out to us so that we can mitigate these problems in society. We appreciate the prosecutors that we are working with closely, especially around sexual gender-based violence, so that we can say that it is going very fine,” she said.