Phoenix, a media consultancy in Paynesville, over the weekend held a one day workshop with key actors to acquire skills to preach the message of eliminating gender-based violence across the country.
It has also been mandated by the UNMIL Human Rights Section (HRS) to establish structures in the counties its employees and contractors will visit to ensure that the residents of those places have respect for the rule of law and avoid violating and abusing the rights of women and children.
In preparation for the trip to the counties, the Phoenix leadership held a one-day in-service workshop for skills development in a bid to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and the need to curtail or if possible eliminate impunity, which has permeated the country.
Giving the overview of the workshop, Dr. Momo Rogers, senior consultant at Phoenix, said the UNMIL HRS has asked his entity to create awareness on SGBV, which is prevalent in Liberia. “Impunity, a keyword, is tearing our country apart. Many people abuse and violate the rights of our sisters, mothers, daughters and other relatives, but they go without punishment from the authorities,” Dr. Rogers said.
He said Phoenix’s mission will extend to the point of helping traditional leaders gain better awareness of the need to prevent the prevalence of SGBV cases in their respective areas. “We hope to establish a connection between our agents and the local authorities as well as between the local authorities and the national government through the concerned corrective agencies. The local people are our target because they are glued to traditional beliefs that we need not to just challenge or condemn, but work along with so as to get the right thing done,” he noted.
He said his organization has divided the country into three regions, namely: southeastern, north-central and western. The southeast, he said, constitutes Maryland, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Sinoe and Grand Kru counties, while the north-central region is comprised of Nimba, Bong, Lofa, Rivercess, Grand Bassa and Margibi counties. The western region has Montserrado, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties.
Melvin Nyanway, an official from the UNMIL human rights office, said the intent of the project is to ensure that people know what human rights are and help in protecting them, regardless of who is involved. “Human rights are values and they should be accorded people even before their birth. All human rights that are accorded every human being end only when a person dies and is buried,” Nyanway said.
He defined sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) as an act perpetrated against someone based on his or her sexual orientation. He called on the participants to use tact and wisdom as they strive to fight against violations and abuse of human rights.
“You will get at some towns and villages and in some other cases, cities where you will come across 65 year old men or older married to 15 or 20 year old girls. Their action is based on traditional beliefs, therefore, take your own time and carefully approach them on the need to stop abusing the rights of those young girls. Do not impose your ideas on them, but persuade them to see reason and stop the violation of human rights,” said Nyanway.
The executive director of Phoenix, Morris Dukuly, called on those traveling to the counties to be wise and humble as they perform their given tasks with the people. “One thing you have to work for is that the culture of impunity is rooted in the people. Build a sense of responsibility in the local leadership to promote justice. Be a friend to all and support good ideas that will help to shape society,” he advised.
He called on them to be sensitive to local cultures and traditional practices. “Be simple in your language and avoid too much bluffing. Let your dress code, eating habits be moderate,” he noted.
Dukuly was a Minister of Internal Affairs under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
A representative from the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC), Mark Nelson, said SGBV can be physical, sexual, economic and environmental. “As we all know, women and children are mostly affected by men than men are, and one of the challenges we have at hand is the weak judicial system,” Nelson said.
Phoenix is expected to deploy the trained persons to ten of the fifteen counties as soon as possible for two or more weeks.