… Amid rise in sexual assault cases
Amid an increase in sexual abuse across the country, International Rescue Committee (ICR)-Liberia has empowered over 200 teenage girls in Monrovia with skills to decrease their vulnerability to sexual assault from men.
As part of the empowerment programs, IRC-Liberia on Thursday, November 15, 2018, graduated a new batch of 139 adolescent girls, who completed a 10-month adolescent life-skills program dubbed as “Girl Shine” at the Paynesville City Hal.
The 10-month training curriculum convenes girls in groups of 15 with community mentors, to help them connect with each other and grow their social network, IRC Liberia said. The 139 adolescent girls were commemorated during the graduation ceremony, which attracted their parents and partners.
According to IRC-Liberia, a total of 253 girls have successfully completed the program over the past two years. The adolescent groups are part of IRC-Liberia’s “Giving Girls Choices (GGC)” program funded by Irish Aid and ends December 1, 2018.
It has supported five government-run gender-based violence one stop centers located at Star of the Sea in West Point, Duport Road in Paynesville, Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, James N. David Junior and Hope for Women Hospital in Paynesville.
The centers offer a range of free clinical, psycho-social, case management and an option for justice services for survivors of gender-based violence. Since December 2016, the IRC said that the program has provided timely, quality gender-based violence services to 3,442 individuals through the five centers in Montserrado County.
IRC Country Director, Faith Akovi Cooper, who spoke at the graduation ceremony, said that with funding from Irish Aid, the entity has implemented a critical program for adolescent girls in Montserrado County.
Madam Cooper said IRC’s programs and activities have included leadership, life skills training, gender-based violence advocacy, prevention and response due to challenges ranging from human rights violations, poor health, low education attainment and teenage pregnancy young women are faced with.
She said that nearly 300 girls between the ages 10-19 have benefited from the GGC’s program over the past two years, and have built their social network with self confident.
Madam Cooper said that IRC’s girl focused project takes place in safe spaces where girls can share their thoughts and feelings.
“The aim is to help girls realize their own power and potential to play key roles in their own communities, sustain peace, and help lead Liberia into the future,” Madam Cooper said.
She was therefore pleased over the level of commitment and support from the graduates’ families and communities, and noted that the girls have learned important skills from one another and are contributing to their own communities by serving as “positive role models” for youth across Montserrado County.
“I am happy to see the graduates’ families and communities cheering on their daughters, nieces, cousins and friends,” she said. The head of the Adolescent Girls Division at the Ministry of Gender, Hawa Dunor Varney, who delivered the keynote address, said that a girl child’s human rights is never protected or fulfilled if she lacks access to education, becomes vulnerable to child marriage and gender-based violence.
“It beholds us to reinforce our collective efforts and further accelerate strategies around tangibly addressing issues faced by the girl child,” Madam Varney said. She alleged that girls have less access to information, communication technology and resources such as the internet where global gender gap is growing.
“Addressing issues faced by the girl child have more national dividend than anyone can imagine. Research shows that if all women had a primary education, there would be 15 percent fewer child death. If all women had primary education, 1.7 million children would be saved from stunting from malnutrition,” Madam Varney said.