Spotlight Initiative, a non-governmental group that is involved in advocacy against Female Genital Mutilation and gender-based violence against women and girls, has turned over several motorbikes to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders to enable them monitoring the implementation of the Ganta Declaration which calls for a one-year suspension of all Sande society activities; and to raise awareness among communities on measures to prevent the spread of corona virus and respond to sexual and gender based violence.
The Ganta Declaration signed on 25 June 2019 calls for a one-year suspension of Sande society and bush school activities, where young women and girls are initiated into adulthood through a series of activities including Female Genital Mutilation.
“We hope the closure of the bush schools will pave the way for the elimination of all harmful practices against women and girls in Liberia,” says Marie Goreth Nizigama, UN Women Country Representative for Liberia.
“As the custodians of culture and traditional practices, traditional leaders play an important role in ending all forms of violence against women and girls. We commend the European Union and the Government of Liberia for providing the platform to eliminate harmful practices.”
To enable traditional leaders to reach the grassroots communities, UN Women within the framework of the Spotlight Initiative on Friday, May 15, 2020 donated ten motorbikes to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders to facilitate the monitoring of the closure of the bush schools and alternative livelihood support.
“We commend the Spotlight Initiative for the provision of motorbikes to enable the Ministry to enforce its mandate to close bush schools and to help eliminate violence against women and girls in the communities,” says Varney Sirleaf, Minister of Internal Affairs.
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic affecting Liberia, the traditional leaders will also raise awareness on the virus and its implications on sexual and gender-based violence in eight counties, including Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Lofa, Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Bong and Margibi Counties.
“COVID-19 conditions are putting a lot of people under strain and increasing the risk of violence against women and girls. The Spotlight Initiative urges the Government of Liberia and civil society actors to provide a comprehensive response with interventions to prevent violence against women and girls,” says Mr. Theodorus Kaspers, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation in Liberia.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations. In Liberia, the Initiative seeks to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls including Female Genital Mutilation, and it expects to end these activities by 2030.
Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in 11 of Liberia’s 15 counties. Following the Ganta declaration, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders ordered the immediate closure of all bush schools.
The European Union and United Nations Spotlight Initiative, launched the ‘Alternative Economic Livelihood’ activities and the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the vocational and heritage centre in December 2019 for traditional practitioners who operate bush schools in order to provide alternative sources of income replacing female genital mutilation.
The launch of the vocational and heritage centres present many opportunities for self-empowerment of traditional practitioners in Liberia as they are set to benefit from climate smart agriculture, business development, literacy, catering, soap making and tailoring skills among others.
Four vocational and heritage centres are set to be constructed in Nimba, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount and Montserrado counties in Liberia under the European Union and United Nations Spotlight Initiative.
UN Women is the United Nations entity for championing gender equality and women’s empowerment. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, UN Women is supporting the government of Liberia to provide a gender sensitive response to COVID-19.