OXFAM-Liberia in collaboration with the European Union (EU) has launched a three-year community initiative aimed at ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Liberia.
SGBV in Liberia and other parts of Africa has become pervasive and entrenched so that reports about cases are received by the Police daily. According to Bernice Freeman of West Africa Peace-building Network (WAPNET), they as advocates are most of the time frustrated by the action of parents of rape victims because the parents sometimes liaise with the perpetrators to let go the case without reaching the authority.
Besides, Freeman had said earlier that convicts for rape and sexual violence remain low in the country, something she noted was responsible for the rampant rape cases arising daily in Liberia especially Monrovia and its environs.
The project launched on January 21, 2020, is under the theme, “Enough! Empowering Women, Girls, Boys, and Men to Take Positive Action in Ending SGBV.” the three years project is expected to be implemented in Liberia, Ghana, and Mali.
The multi-country program will create an enabling environment for girls and women to know, exercise and claim their rights to end SGBV; strengthening the capacities of civil society partners (especially women’s groups) to influence policies and services to prevent and respond to SGBV and Challenges, and changing discriminatory social and gender norms, attitudes and practices to prevent violence against women and girls.
It will contribute to concrete changes for vulnerable community members as well as achieve sustainable results. The cost of the project in Liberia is €1,759,803, with the EU contributing €1,574,803.
The initiative will support the organizational and thematic capacity development of more than eight civil society organizations and will directly benefit more than 3,800 Liberians in Sinoe, River Cess, Grand Gedeh, Margibi, and Montserrado.
It will provide €1,000,000 to Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP); Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH); Helping Our People Excel (HOPE); Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI); Westpoint Women and Health Organization (WPWHO); Women Solidarity Inc. (WOSI), Her Voice Liberia (HVL) and Sister Aid Liberia (SALI).
Theodorus Kaspers, Head, Cooperation of EU Delegation to Liberia, told the gathering that violence against women and girls remains one of the most significant human rights violations in Liberia.
Kaspers said, “With this project, we aim at creating an enabling environment for women and girls to learn, exercise and claim their rights to ultimately end violence against them.”
He said the EU has strived to strengthen the capacities of community actors and women’s organizations to prevent SGBV crimes and ensure that there are response services in place for survivors.
Kaspers said the project seeks to raise public awareness and shifting mindsets by challenging discriminatory gender norms and practices.
“The Enough! The project, along with the extensive EU/UN joint program spotlight initiative that focuses on the elimination of SGBV also translates the EU’s commitment to making a real and lasting difference for women and girls all over the world,” Kaspers said.
Kaspers underscored breaking the ‘stereotypes and culture of silence’ as the first step towards transforming the high prevalence of SGBV and building a balanced, empowered society. He noted that having 65% of the funds sub-granted to local women rights organizations, they are confident that the increase in participation, resources and capacity building activities in transformative leadership can be taken to within communities.
Alice Johnson-Howard, Deputy Minister of Gender, said over the years violence against women has become prevalent and there is a need for immediate action to focus on prevention and the empowerment of women, girls, boys, and men.
Minister Johnson-Howard encouraged the involvement of men in the advocacy to end SGBV because the economic vulnerability of Liberian women is a key factor holding back gender equality.
Ellen Attoh Wreh, Margibi County District #3 Representative, said she usually turns hopeless and emotional during discussion on SGBV because they have worked hard to pass the Domestic Violence Act passed into handbill, but it was not taking effect and the act continues to pervade the society.
Rep. Attoh Wreh said the domestic violence bill does not protect women only but extends to men, adding that Africans can hold on to their culture and still do the right thing.
She argued that the dress code of women should not be an excuse for being raped because the babies who are also abused do not dress half-naked.
Rep. Attoh Wreh said rape cases should not wait for family members to represent the victims before prosecution because it is a state crime.
Shah Liton, OXFAM Country Director, called on the media to uphold the dignity of survivors in their reportage when it comes to SGBV and Domestic violence cases.
Liton said discrimination against women and girls is an age-old problem that needs special attention and the commitment from both local and international partners to put an end to harmful practices, SGBV, and domestic violence.