Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor has added her voice to the many that condemn the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) across the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision. There are no health benefits to FGM and it is recognized internationally as a human rights violation.
Senator Taylor’s support to the campaign was contained in an extemporaneous remark she made shortly after receiving a petition from students, who on Thursday, June 16, joined their colleagues worldwide in celebrating the Day of the African Child in Monrovia.
The Monrovia celebration was sponsored by A World At School, in collaboration with two local non-governmental organizations (NGO) – It Takes A Village Africa and Bridge International Academies.
This year’s International Day of the African Child was observed on the national theme, “Education in Emergency; Let’s Implement SDG4.” It is in line with the international theme, “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights.”
Senator Taylor is the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education. She received the students’ petition on behalf of members of the legislature. She assured the students of the lawmakers’ commitment to ensuring budgetary increment for education in the 2016/2017 National Budget currently being discussed.
“We are currently discussing the 2016/2017 National Budget and I believe this petition is timely for us to consider as we discuss the national instrument for development across the country.
“I will prevail on my colleagues to ensure all of what you have listed in your petition is discussed and appropriate actions taken to support quality education in Liberia,” said Senator Taylor.
Earlier, Senator Taylor promised to work along with partners to eradicate all negative practices such as the FGM, early marriage and sex for grades that often retard the learning progress, especially for female students.
“The efforts to enhance our girls’ learning is predominately incumbent upon all mothers to see to it that the children reach their full potential without being forced into FGM, or any form of discrimination,” Senator Taylor said as she received a copy of the petition from student Wilnet Gaye, who read it.
In the petition, the students have recorded an estimated 5,000 children across Liberia who are out of school (Education for All 2015 Report) as of Thursday. There are many whose education has been disrupted by conflicts and natural disasters. While the government has made impressive gains to get children into schools, there are still hundreds of thousands of them desperate for quality education.
According to them, when their colleagues drop out of school, they are left at risk of being married off as child-brides, being trafficked, becoming child laborers, and used in extremism.
In 2014, A World At School, Global Youth Ambassadors and more than 75,000 Liberian students presented the #UpForSchool petition to the lawmakers; on Thursday, they were there again to reecho their call.
The students called on the lawmakers to launch a new platform to fund education in emergencies so that children caught up in future crises are in safe schools, and not at risk of child labor, early marriage, trafficking and extremism.
“With your backing the new platform can and must reach at least 200,000 children annually within five years, with a plan in place to reach every child by 2030.
“We call on you to support the 2016/2017 education budget with a 10 percent increment. We urge you, the Lawmakers to ensure that all children who lost their parents to the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) are enrolled back in school during the next academic year.
“We implore you to promote access to technology in schools for all children in Liberia to enhance their learning in the 21st century.
“As we all are aware, the toughest year for education and attacks on children the world over was 2014. Education has been one of the first casualties of the Ebola outbreak.
“Let’s get our children off the streets! Let’s stop them from becoming child brides! Let’s get them into the classrooms! And let’s save the future of our dear country, Liberia!” the petition states.
Proclaimed by the then Organization for African Unity (OAU), the Day of the African Child seeks to highlight the challenges confronting African youths, and to draw the attention of governments to take actions so that African children can realize their fullest potential, like their counterparts around the world.
On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was shot during a peaceful demonstration in South Africa against the use of Afrikaans in schools. He was 13 years old. Pieterson’s death signifies for youths that advocacy pays. Forty years later, the day is marked as the Day of the
African Child by encouraging young people to step forward and speak up on issues that affect them.