President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on Liberians to take practical steps in the fight against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) to ensure the menace is fully minimized, if not eradicated from the society.
She noted that to minimize SGBV in Liberia requires the collective effort of all Liberians, especially women who are always victims, and should not be left to the government alone. Speaking at the official launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, organized by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP) in Monrovia Wednesday, the Liberian leader called on mothers to stop sending their underage girls children to sell, because it makes them vulnerable. She urged the gathering to join the fight in practical ways in their homes, schools, communities, and associations to stop violence against girls and women and called on parents to protect their children against violence. President Sirleaf said every little child, woman or girl is being raped, assaulted and abused, adding this means that Liberia loses someone who would have protected their parents and sent every efforts being made backward. “As I have come to launch the 16 days of activism against Sexual and Gender-based Violence, I ask all of you not to just come as people who are here to participate, but take practical actions in ensuring that those who rape, assault and abuse little girls, young men and women are made to stop,” President Sirleaf noted. The Liberian leader also appealed to various Churches and Mosques to also be a part of the fight against the abuse of women and children. She then pledged government’s support in standing with the Ministry of Gender and the Liberian people in general in fighting the menace. For her part, Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell said this year, the 16 days of activism will also focus on the launch of the “End Child Marriage Campaign” as well as ending violence against children through the launch of a ‘116’ Hotline for Children urging every Liberian to help to create a healthy space for all. She said: “We have come again to ask our media colleagues, our guests and the public to help us strengthen this campaign with the communities, the churches, the mosques, the schools, the traditional leaders and stakeholders to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence to avert another woman, man, girl, boy and child from being abused, raped, sodomized and deprived to live as the result of sexual gender- based violence”. The launch of the 16 Days of Activism was followed by the signing of a SGBV Joint Program and the launch of a 116 Child Helplines by the Ministry of Gender and partners, including UN Women. The Helplines will serve as a medium for reporting SGBV cases to draw government’s attention to the violations. The 16 Days of Activism is a campaign on violence against women which takes place from the 25th of November to the 10th of December each year. This global campaign which is undertaken by women’s organizations, governments and stakeholders, resonates some key dates in women and human rights movements. This year’s observance is being observed under a national theme: “From Peace In The Home To Peace In The World; Stop Domestic Violence, End Child Marriage While Educating All.” The program was graced by authorities of the Ministry of Gender, led by Minister Julia Duncan Cassel; United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General, Farid Zarif; representatives from UNMIL, UN Women, European Union and African Union, among others. Minister Cassell also used the occasion to inform participants that this year’s celebration is being observed under the national Theme: “From Peace in the Home, to Peace in the World; Stop Domestic Violence, End Child Marriage while Educating All” with emphasis on the call to action to provide resources for healthy and not abusive environment where everyone can enjoy peace and safe space while providing education for all, which serves as a recipe for peaceful homes and a peaceful country. She pointed out that to date: “It is saddened to note that the GBV statistics still shows a relatively low upward trend as we continue the fight against this social menace”. She said from, January-August, 2016 a total of 931 GBV cases were reported, of which 610 were rape cases compared to January-September -2015 where a total of 1,088 GBV cases were reported nationwide of which 588 were rape cases”. She furthered - between January–December 2014, at the peak of the Ebola epidemic, which was a regional health crisis, women and children were still violated; a total of 1,392 GBV cases were reported, of which rape accounted for 682 cases. In 2013, she indicated that a total of 2,159 GBV cases were reported of the total, 1,215 were rape while 2,495 were reported in 2012; rape accounted for 1, 501 cases and 2,383 reported in 2011, with 1,476 rape cases. Speaking further, Minister Cassell, assured participants that there is relatively a reduction in cases reported. Liberia’s Gender Minister said she will work with the Ministry of Justice and the court for the speedy trial of those in custody as they work together to bring the perpetrators at-large to justice. The event will be celebrated throughout the fifteen Counties in series of awareness and sensitization activities, under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.