My fellow Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters, those of other religious affiliations, Episcopalians, the peace-loving people of Liberia, our partners and stakeholders, and members of the fourth estate; I bring you warm greetings from the Most Rev. Dr. Jonathan B. B. Hart, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia (ECL), Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Internal Province of West Africa (IPWA), and Primate and Metropolitan Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA) and in my own name, as the Vicar General of the ECL.
Firstly, let me extend my appreciation to all our partners and stakeholders, as well as all those who are advocating for the rights and safety of women among the comity of nations, most especially in Liberia. I salute all of you for your hard work and dedication to a just and worthy cause. However, we need to do more, if women must assume their rightful places in society, communities, their homes, workplaces, and the world at large.
As we join the global community to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we, Religious and Faith Leaders must first of all soberly reflect on our resolve to work with the Government of Liberia and other development partners to bring an end to this nightmare that is negatively affecting our well-being and our existence as a people. Let us use this time to soberly reflect, as well as partner with other organizations, individuals, and Religious Institutions to organize activities for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
The 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign begins on November 25th, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day; however, the work to address this global plague is far from being complete. Efforts to promote gender equality and improve the status of women and girls is not limited to a single date, month or season, rather it is a continuous commitment requiring all members of society to uphold human rights, have respect for human dignity, and promote a life free from violence.
This year’s Global Campaign Theme is “ORANGE THE WORLD: END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN NOW!”, while the National Theme is ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! LET’S ACT NOW TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, GIRLS, CHILDREN AND OTHER MARGINALIZED GROUPS”. We must treat women with the respect they deserve. Lest we forget, women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, wives, and partners and must not be seen as lesser beings.
As we reflect on the Global and National Themes for this year’s commemoration of the 16 days of Activism, we would like to encourage every well-meaning Liberian and resident of Liberia, to make a decision to join the fight to end violence against women and other vulnerable persons within our borders.
We oftentimes hear about the increase in violence perpetrated against women and children, besides the bad feelings and empathy we express, what are we doing to end this nightmare and menace that is eating the very fabric of our society.
Our country, like other countries the world over, has been battling the Corona Virus pandemic and had to put in place several measures to prevent the spread of the virus, ranging from travel restrictions to the closure of schools, as well as imposing curfew and the scaling down of the workforce.
These measures greatly affected economic activities and had a negative effect on the families’ incomes and purchasing power. In our project communities, women and children experience various forms of violence, ranging from battering, denial of food, and even sexual abuse. For example, in some communities in our project counties, children between the ages of 3 years and 10 years were raped and unfortunately, these young children are unable to get justice, as most of the perpetrators have escaped. If a child is raped, that is violence against women and children. This human rights violation has to stop and STOP NOW! We must take action, and ensure the alleged perpetrators do not escape and must be tried for their heinous crimes.
What are we doing as Religious and Faith Leaders? Can we redirect our energies to the men and boys in our Churches, Mosques, communities, and homes, and wherever we find them? Can we frown on any and all forms of violence in our places of worship and let the men and boys understand that there must be a zero-tolerance for Gender-based violence; can we begin to take a more proactive approach and organize boys/young men conferences, retreats, and other activities, where GBV issues, masculinities, and power relations are discussed; even in our homes, can we begin to educate our boys to respect the opposite sex and not to take advantage of girls.
As we commemorate the 16 days of Activism, we empathize with every woman and girl who have to live with the scar of being violated because you are a woman or girl, or who have to constantly hear and believe the negative and hurtful words said to you, which have made you be bitter, resentful and even caused you to lose your self-esteem, we say to you, all is not lost; you are not alone; there is help and your life can be restored, as there are people out there who are ready and prepared to listen to your story. Don’t pay any attention to those in society who are still naïve to understand the suffering you are experiencing and are defending your abusers and are blaming you.
To our women and children, do get tired of reporting abuses; whether it is your close relative or neighbor, faith or religious leader, community leader or friend; let us also report any abuse that is done to our children, as a perpetrator behind bars, leaves the community and society with one less wicked and evil-minded person. “Enough is enough!” We MUST all do something.
To us men, we must protect our families and raise our hands to evil persons and not those we love. We must raise healthy families; we must teach our sons to treat their sisters and other females with love and respect. Let us stop being perpetrators and start being partners; let us take on the responsibility of engaging our friends who are abusive and report them. Intimate partner violence and any form of violence for that matter are wrong and not justifiable.
To the Episcopal Church of Liberia Relief and Development and all other actors in the fight against Gender-Based Violence, I salute all of you as we commemorate this year’s 16 days of Activism, which has the Global Theme: Orange the World: END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN NOW and the National Theme: “Enough is Enough!, LET’S ACT NOW TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, GIRLS, CHILDREN, AND OTHER MARGINALIZED GROUPS”.
The journey may be long and the task may seem insurmountable, however, let us not give up; let’s keep up the fight; change is inevitable, regardless of how long it may take. Right now, we may not have a world or society that is free from violence against women and girls, but we can have a world and society where perpetrators of violence against women and girls will not go with impunity.
This is why we at the Episcopal Church of Liberia are also saying End Violence against women now! And enough is enough as we support the Government and work with the structures in our project communities through our VAW Program: Engaging Faith Leaders to Prevent and Respond to Violence against Women and Girls and Increase Survivors Access to Services. This Program provides the opportunity for both Christian and Muslim faith leaders to join the “We will Speak Out Campaign” by using their various platforms to speak out against violence against women and girls.
Throughout the 16 Days of Activism, the National and County Faith Leaders Coalitions along with the County-level Faith-Based Youth Coalitions and students will participate in several activities including radio talk shows, Dramas, Sporting events, as well as indoor and outdoor programs to create awareness on the need to prevent and end violence against women and children.
THE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM MUST extend to 365 DAYS THROUGH OUR ACTIONS AND THE WAY WE HANDLE AND ADDRESS GBV ISSUES IN OUR FAMILIES, CHURCHES, MOSQUES, COMMUNITIES, and SOCIETY
On behalf of the Episcopal Church of Liberia I, the Venerable Sei-Sunday Freeman, Vicar General of the Episcopal of Church of Liberia, do hereby call on all Christians, Muslims, and other Faith-Based and Religious institutions to join the campaign to Orange the World and END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN NOW, as “ENOUGH ID ENOUGH!, LET’S ACT NOW TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, GIRLS, CHILDREN, AND OTHER MARGINALIZED GROUPS”.
In compliance with the National call for activism against Gender-Based Violence, I hereby launch the Episcopal Church of Liberia Relief and Development activities for this year’s 16 Days of Activism in the four project Counties: Grand Cape Mount, Rivercess, Bong, and Grand Gedeh.
The Venerable Sie-Sunday Freeman
Episcopal Church of Liberia