Amidst an increase in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) across the country, the Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI) has trained 63 young women and girls in advocacy and drafting of women’s rights policy to help end SGBV.
Hawa C. Wilson, Program Officer of Paramount Young Women Initiative, in an interview with Daily Observer recently said PAYOWI recognizes the need to work with young women and empower them as part of efforts to help eliminate all forms of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful masculinity practices in Liberia.
PAYOWI, through its project, titled, “Enough! Empowering Women, Men, Boys, and Girls” has taken positive actions in ending SGBV through the conduct of a daylong Trainer of Trainer (TOT) in each of its project communities.
According to Ms. Wilson, the training focuses on advocacy, lobbying, and influencing the drafting of policy on women’s rights in two of Liberia’s fifteen counties, including Montserrado and Margibi.
“Our beneficiaries communities in Montserrado County include Samukai Camp and Mount Barclay, while Margibi County includes Duazon and Marshall. The training empowers women to conduct or facilitate training with a focus on policy and advocacy in their various communities for social change as well as how women can network and collaborate in the fight against SGBV,” Ms. Wilson said.
Ms. Wilson said participants also learned and gained skills on the types of advocacies, advocacy strategies, and national policies or documents that support women’s rights, participation and how women can promote gender justice that influences social change within their various communities.
“Participants were selected based on tools developed by the M&E team. We had 15 persons selected from each community but some communities had over 15 participants due to a passion for change and quest to end SGBV or engage in awareness in their communities,” Ms. Wilson said.
Ms. Wilson said in order for one to be an active or informed advocate within his/her community at the grassroots level, PAYOWI decided to increase the knowledge of these women.
“People who should be speaking on the ills that affect people’s lives, should have the full details and information concerning the issue (s) before talking about it. PAYOWI believes that the issue of SGBV is rooted within various communities and family; therefore, there is a need for more awareness,” Ms. Wilson said.
According to Ms. Wilson, the fight against SGBV needs to start at the grassroots level, stating, “Prior to this project, there was a survey conducted by Oxfam-Liberia which led to this current initiative.” She said PAYOWI has also been working in its project communities and has unearthed some of these issues as well.
Ms. Wilson said SGBV issues continue to exist because some people are not educated about it and do not know how they can contribute to ending SGBV. She said the issue of rape continues to be a national issue and PAYOWI will continue to join other women in advocating for women and girls rights, stating, “We have laws on the book. But are women and girls aware that it protects them.”
Ms. Wilson said Liberian society is faced with many barriers, including consent, which is cardinal in ending SGBV in Liberia. Ms. Wilson said under this project, men and boys will be trained separately because “if you bring both sex (male & female) together, a woman may not tell you some of the problems faced in the home in the presence of her partner due to fear.”
Meanwhile, the project is supported by the European Union (EU) through Oxfam in Liberia.