By Leroy M. Sonpon III
The Liberian government, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and UN Women, have signed a US$6.5m agreement to prevent gender based violence in the country.
The funding is also intended to strengthen the capacity of institutions helping to tackle Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell signed on behalf of the government, while the Deputy Country Representative and Officer-in-Charge of the UN Women Liberia, Peterson Magoola, signed for his organization.
Minister Cassell said according to GBV statistics there is a relatively slow trend in the fight against this social menace.
“From January to August 2016 a total of 931 GBV cases were reported, of which 610 were rapes, compared to January to September 2015 when a total of 1,088 GBV cases were reported nationwide of which 588 were rapes.
“Also, between January and December 2014, at the peak of the Ebola epidemic, which was a regional health and developmental crisis, women and children were still violated and a total of 1,392 GBV cases were reported, of which rape accounted for 682. In 2013 a total of 2,159 GBV cases were reported and 1,215 were rapes; 2,495 were reported in 2012, with rape accounting for 1, 501; and 2,383 reported in 2011, with 1,476 rape cases,” she said.
UN Women is a global advocate for gender equality working to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which all women and girls can exercise their human rights and live up to their full potential.
The agreement was sealed yesterday at the Gender Ministry during the official launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender, which is also known as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The funding was provided by the Swedish Government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Mr. Magoola said the agreement would tackle four key areas with diverse executors.
The prevention of gender based violence will be undertaken by UN Women and Gender Ministry, while institution-strengthening will be handled by UNDP and the Ministry of Justice; the communication component is between UNICEF and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, while coordination is again to be undertaken by UN Women and the Gender Ministry.
Minister Cassell emphasized that violence against women, men, girls and boys is a violation of their human rights.
She recounted that this year marks the 25th year of the 16 Days of Activism and the 15th commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against gender violence campaign in Liberia.
“I wish to call on all of you to help create a healthy and not abusive environment where everyone can enjoy peace with safe spaces,” the Minister said. “This year’s 16 Days will also focus on the launch of the End Child Marriage campaign as well as ending violence against children through the launch of the 116 Help-line for Children.
“We have come again to ask our media colleagues, our guests and the listening public to help us strengthen this campaign with the communities, the churches, the mosques, the schools, the traditional leaders and stakeholders to end gender based violence and prevent another woman, another man, another girl, another boy and another child from being abused, from being raped, from being sodomized and from being deprived to live as the result of sexual gender based violence.”
The Minister added 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.'”
The free hotline to enable children to report violence through any GSM company is 116, which has been temporarily installed at the Gender Ministry, but will be officially transferred and installed at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police.