Liberia Marks 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence
Liberia joined the world in marking 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and girls with a series of events between 25 November and 10 December, supported by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and the United Nations.
“The first responsibility belongs to parents, mothers and fathers in the home to protect your children," said chief guest President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the official launch of the campaign. “The teachers have a responsibility. We all, in our churches, in our homes, wherever we are, need to bear this message.”
“Those of us responsible for the three branches of government as leaders of government will go back with all that has been said and be able to look at it and see what does it mean for us,” said the Liberian leader.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Farid Zarif, read the statement by the UN Secretary-General as part of the campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.
“It has taken us many years to admit that women's rights are indeed human rights,” said European Union Ambassador, Tiina Intelmann. “We hear that what happens in the society; how men treat women is a matter of culture. We need to change that culture. It cannot be a matter of culture.”
Statistics on gender-based violence are grim. In 2014, even in the heat of Ebola, a total of 1,139 gender-based violence cases were reported nationwide, of which 720 reported cases were rape, and 657 of the victims being under the age of 18 years. Montserrado County accounts for the highest number of reported cases 545.
“No girl, no woman, no child should live or grow up in a world that is threatened by violence. Do not shelter those who perpetrate violence against children and women,” said outgoing US Ambassador Deborah Malac. Such sentiments were reinforced by the International Rescue Committee’s Women Protection Coordinator, Sarah Eckhoff. “We must work together to ensure that women and girls are given equal opportunity as well as boys to go to school and realize their full potential,” Eckhoff said.
“Despite consolidated efforts to tackle the problem, gender-based violence is still a major threat to security of women, girls and boys across Liberia,” said Gender Minister Julia Duncan-Cassell at a pre-launch press briefing. “This campaign provides an opportunity to advocate against and raise awareness about gender-based violence and reinforces the voices of women who have refused to be silent.”
“Sexual and gender-based violence will not be defeated unless communities engage themselves in the fight every day in every household. Parents have a responsibility,” said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Peace Consolidation and Support, Antonio Vigilante. “There should be no impunity, no condoning, no tolerance, no resignation, no compromise, and no excuses.”
The commemoration was observed under the theme: From Peace in the home to peace in the world and focused on the use of collective voices for the elimination of gender-based violence.
The United Nations also supported the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation to an event at Monrovia Central Prison to raise awareness on sexual and gender-based violence among correction officers and inmates.