Facia Harris, executive director of Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI) says coordination, partnership and accountability to women and girls issues are a means of effectively responding to SGBV’s issues, especially in COVID-19 response.
Director Harris made the remarks at a one-day training on sexual and gender-based violence and COVID-19 organized by the Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI) held in Samukai Town Camp, Caldwell, a rural settlement north of Monrovia. She said in order to significantly achieve the needed impact in the fight against GBV, accountability must be at the core of GBV work.
According to her, accountability to women and girls must be high on the agenda of all stakeholders, teachers, health workers, police, and community leaders. Ms. Harris said women and girls leadership must be prioritized and supported and their diversity considered.
“There are benefits if public stakeholders coordinate their approaches to violence prevention efforts. There will be a greater impact, improving social change as well as pouring scarce resources together to achieve more. The partnership is important as it provides meaningful collaboration and cooperation that in returns address shared issues around prevention of gender-based violence (GBV),” Ms. Harris said.
The Program Officer of the Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), Hawa Wilson, said SGBV is an old-age issue and continues to raise alarm in various communities and the international world.
“We decided today to come out and engage stakeholders on ending SGBV, especially those playing key role in working around SGBV at the community level,” Ms. Wilson said.
According to her, the selection was made to give stakeholders the opportunity to explain their challenges and what can be done to curtail SGBV including rape. She said about 40 persons from both Montserrado and Margibi counties are expected to benefit from the program.
The Samukai Town is one of many communities across Liberia, where numerous incidents of domestic violence occur, but where traditions and social structures often keep reports of such incidents subdued.
Ms. Wilson recounted PAYOWI’s work in Samukai Town with female high school students, through ‘wise girls club’ which led to the unearthing of information regarding the acceleration of SGBV’s issues in Samukai Town Camp.
“Ending SGBV from Samukai Town Camp will not be successful by working with young girls only, but whether with the stakeholders. We need to provide the necessary education for stakeholders and also work with them to get positive results,” Ms. Wilson said.
Ms. Wilson said she was impressed with the interactions as stakeholders openly engage each other while promising to work together in the fight against SGBV.
She said PAYOWI is planning to have a dialogue session with the police authorities and community leaders for coordination, stating “everyone needs to get involved [in order to] end the fight against SGBV.”
Ms. Wilson said PAYOWI said she hopes to see a community where SGBV is minimized and curtailed, most especially in Samukai Town Camp that is highly religious dominated community. She emphasized that because of some religious and traditional beliefs, most people in the community are not willing to report about SGBV which shows that much needs to be done in creating awareness.
She attributed the increase of SGBV cases to the lack of coordination among stakeholders because “residents usually complain of not reporting domestic violence due to lack of money to give to the police and have to live with the situation.”
Sergeant Ophelia B. Francis of the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police (WACPS-LNP) says religious and traditional practices continue to hamper the fight against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Samukai Town, Montserrado County.
Sergeant Francis, a participant of the training, said if a resident informed them about domestic violence that occurred a particular home, those involved will tell the police that they are able to solve the issue. “If a man beats on his wife or child, no one is willing to report the issue to the police,” she said.
The one-day event was intended to highlight SGBV issues and how stakeholders can coordinate to response to these SGBV’s issues during this pandemic and after.
The event brought together stakeholders, including representatives of the Liberia National Police, nurses, teachers and community leaders.
“Most SGBV cases are not reported because of religious and traditional practices. We need to have the awareness to end SGBV. It’s difficult for our people to report cases. Most of the rape cases on children have a future impact and our people need to have this message,” Sergeant Francis said.
She said since the COVID-19 lockdown was instituted by the President George Weah, the WACPS continues to have minor cases of domestic violence. She said the police has a serious role to play in the fight against SGBV.
Kollie W. Jallah, Jr., a teacher at the Upper Caldwell Community School, who participated in the program, said most of the people in the teaching field have too many temptations and that some of the students continue to suffer in the hands of the teachers.
“We need a space where even as a child, you can walk to the police station to explain what happens to you,” Mr. Jallah said.
According to him, some of the students suffer by being put out of the class because of their refusal to have a relationship with a teacher.
“If you even ask the teacher, the only thing you get is that she is disturbing my class and I had to allow to leave the class,” he said.