Exactly a week after Brewerville was declared a “rape prone” settlement after two female students, 12 and 13, were raped to death there this year, a Swedish diplomat, last Friday assured students there of her government and people’s commitment to the ongoing fight against rape.
Quite recently, the Sexual Gender Based Violence Crime Unit (SGBV) of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) launched a public awareness and education campaign on sexual gender based violence and rape in the Ellen Mills Scarborough Elementary and Junior High School, where a 12 year-old second grade student, Musu Morris, attended when she was raped to death by a 42 year old man.
Last Friday’s public awareness campaign, during which Ambassador Lena Nordstrom pledged her government’s commitment, was held in another school, the Sarah Barclay Elementary and Junior High School, situated in Banjor, Hotel Africa Road, where a 13 year-old second grade female student, Musu Kanneh, was gang raped to death.
As for the late Morris, her perpetrator was arrested and is currently detained at the Monrovia Central Prison, but the late Kanneh’s assailants are still on the run.
Consoling students of the Sarah Barclay School, the Swedish envoy said, “It was not fair for their friend, Musu Kanneh, to have suffered and died of rape. She needed protection and she deserved to have been protected. But you are not alone in this fight. My country and my four girl children are also with you in this campaign.”
She told the students, who heard her promise a new beginning in their struggle against rape in the settlement, “We are standing with you because you are the future of Liberia and we should make sure that nobody becomes a victim of rape in your school anymore.”
Before Ambassador Nordstrom’s remarks, the students stood and observed a moment of silence in remembrance of their friends who were raped to death in the area.
Nordstrom asked the students to repeat the words “Say no to rape” after her. The students concurred, shouting “No to rape!!! No to rape!!!”
Ambassador Nordstrom continued by saying, “Be proud of yourself and of your body. Be proud of who you are because your body is the only thing you have to protect to live, and it is your responsibility to keep it protected.”
“It is you who have to decide what you want to do with your body and not anyone to abuse your body. You have to make it your duty to report anyone who touches your breasts or your butt or even the private part of your body.”
“Take this as your responsibility that you older students should protect the smaller ones in this school. Take care of them so that they do not fall into the hands of those bad people in your community.”
Madam Linda Barolle-Saygbe, who is the training and outreach coordinator of SGBV, recounted that several children have been victims of rape in the area. She did not, however, give the number of those who have fallen victims to rape.
According to her, the campaign will mainly target schools in the area, where she believes almost all of the rape victims have been students.
She reminded the students about the commitment of her government and those of its international partners, naming Sweden, to help provide education that would enable them to report rape cases and how to prevent themselves from becoming victims, like their deceased friends.