Unlike the usual celebration of International Women’s Day when people gather together in a particular location to deliver and listen to speeches, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights in collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the (OHCHR) Swedish Embassy took a different approach this year. The mentioned institutions and diplomatic mission this year targeted pregnant women at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital maternity ward to celebrate them for bringing life into the world through excruciating pain and later when they could understand, educating the youths on their rights.
The theme of this year’s celebration is, “Women’s Rights for Generational Equality.” Women’s rights awareness, drama, distribution of sanitary pads and special remarks from partners characterized the celebration.
Tonia Wile, INCHR Commissioner, said the intent of taking this year’s celebration to the Maternity Ward was to celebrate women in their pregnancy, educating them about domestic violence and other laws that protect the rights of women.
Concerted action is highly essential on the part of the Liberian Government to continue to support women through the health sector as a specialized area and to provide support for maternity women, was the underlying message of the visit to JFK.
Wile said the INCHR’s survey has shown that people were dying in hospitals because of lack of electricity, oxygen, and BP Cuffs to check pressure, which she said was not encouraging.
Ernestine Asha Ebai said women should not be denied any opportunity because of their gender, adding that women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as their male counterparts.
Any policy, law or tradition that goes contrary to women’s rights violates human rights, Ebai said. She said the achievements of strong women who have done exploration should tell the younger generation that despite the challenges they face, women with determination can reach their potential.
The global event, Ebai said, is to help develop a gender-equal world and to show commitment to equality. “This is the reason why we thank the Liberian Government for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act and urge that it is enforced, ” she stated.
“We call on all public and private institutions in Liberia to run programs that will end domestic violence against women, put them in a leadership position that will show their participation in politics and ensure their securities in Liberia and the world at large,” Ebai said.
Ebai further called for the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into law to strengthen women’s chances of occupying political offices and be actively involved in law and policy-making processes across the country.
Elizabeth Harleman, Swedish Embassy Head of Development Cooperation, said women should be celebrated every day, not on a special day.
Women should be able to decide when to have a child together with their partners, whom to have sex with and when they should have sex, said Harleman.
Sia Wata Camonor, JFK Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in closing remarks said people feel that women are fighting to be men, something she said is not true. Women are only requesting the same opportunity to sit at the table to discuss with their male counterparts.
Dr. Camonor praised Liberian women for being able to break the first barrier in Africa by producing the first female president in Africa. She also noted that two women are currently representing Liberia at the IMF.
“All we want is for the home, work place, and environment to be a safe place where women can do their best. The scary thing about women is that we can do all men can do, and go an extra mile by giving birth to a living soul that men cannot do,” she pointed out.
IWD is dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres.
International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1975, and in 1977 the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
The generation equality campaign this year is intended to bring together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion, and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world women deserve.