By Tina S. Mehnpaine
In an effort to end impunity for perpetrators of rape and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the country, a women and children advocacy group ‘Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH) has launched an online data collection app to monitor and track issues associated with rape and SGBV cases.
The program was launched on Monday, September 8, 2020 in Monrovia and was attended by legal practitioners, humanitarians, youth volunteers and officials of government.
It is titled: “Strengthening Women Led-Response during Humanitarian Crisis’ with funding from the Feminist Humanitarian Network (FHN), an international NGO that helps to support grass root organizations.
The app is code named “Rebecca to Protect the Women Human Rights Defenders,” and will pilot the monitoring or tracking of information on rape and SGBV on a shared platform in five communities and police depots in Montserrado County, including Peace Island, Doe Community, Old Road Gaye Town, Saye Town and Caldwell.
Atty. Mmonbeydo Nadine Joah, ORWOCH Executive Director, said her organization is already involved in providing legal support to women and children in Montserrado County.
She pointed out that many of the rape and SGBV cases are often compromised or unaccounted for due to the lack of mechanism to track or monitor the menace.
“Statistics from the Gender Ministry shows that out of 1,000 cases, only 22 reached a logical conclusion,” she said.
According to her, some of the cases get dismissed due to failure to prosecute within the statutory term.
“Some cases get dismissed due to survivor’s unwillingness to continue a prolonged and wearisome court processes, or, to keep in contact with prosecutors,” she said.
Atty. Joah said with the level of legal expertise from her program as well as lawyers who are providing voluntary contributions to the program, they are best suited to make the program a success.
“At such a critical moment in our country given its past experience to ensure accountability, the program is a landmark given the contributions by women to use technology to enhance data collection,” she added.
According to her, Liberian women are already leading local efforts to build and reactivate networks that can respond to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, adding that these networks can also effectively respond to SGBV” by helping to end impunity and lack of accountability of the menace in the various communities.
Also, Atty. Tonieh Alexandra Talery Wiles, who launched the program, said that commissioners with oversight responsibilities of treaty matters, and Laws that have to do with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and many other international treaties recognize that rape is a human rights violation which must be stopped at all cost.
According to her, stakeholders are challenged in their understanding of challenges that are found in the judicial system.
She added that the National Independent Human Rights Commission is an independent institution responsible to monitor human rights violations and advise the government on how to proceed, and it does this by collaborating with organizations such as ORWOCH to collect information.
Meanwhile, Atty. Wiles has expressed optimism that the project will succeed since the Executive Director was trained as a monitor and worked briefly at the Human Rights Commission.
Also speaking, Madam Veda Ayele Nyoth Simpson, Acting Board Chair of ORWOCH, said the program is in conformity with ORWOCH’s mission to champion women’s participation in decision-making by empowering grassroots women organizations to come forward with evidence of what happens in their communities in a sophisticated, strategic, and innovative way.
“It also provides accountability by holding duty bearers accountable through data collection,” she said.
She used the occasion to thank FHN for providing the funding to empower grassroots women to take charge of their own issues during the COVID 19 pandemic.
For her part, Sainforh Wesseh, the monitoring and evaluation officer of ORWOCH, said there are many SGBV cases occurring in various communities, but very few of those cases are reported to the government for redress due to several reasons.
She said the launched of the program was important to fight rape and SGBV issues that have permeated the society in a horrible way in recent times.
ORWOCH was founded in 2013, to champion the cause of women’s increased participation in the decision-making process and the reduction of sexual and gender based violence as well as to dismantle gender stereotypes.