MONROVIA, Montserrado – Days after three days of anti-rape protests by hundreds of Liberians, the government has announced it will hold a two-day national conference to discuss sexual and gender-based violence.
According to the Ministry of Information’s Press and Public Affairs director, Lawrence Fahnbulleh, the conference would bring together government institutions that are responsible for SGBV issues, in addition to relevant local and international organizations to work to find solutions to the high prevalence of rapes in the country.
An inter-ministerial committee had been established by Pres. George Weah to come up with an SGBV action plan that would last from now to 2022, Fahnbulleh said. The committee includes the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Information. That action plan spurred the president to ask for the conference.
Fahnbulleh said the conference would be held from September 4 to 5 at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town. However, the Gender Ministry’s communications director, Eric Pervist, told The Bush Chicken the conference would, instead, take place from September 8-9.
He said months ago, the key ministries mentioned above had met and produced an ‘integrated roadmap’ to fighting SGBV, which was presented to the president. A further meeting later produced two committees, the Legal and Health.
The Legal Committee, he said, is looking at laws that should be amended or actions that needed to be taken by the courts to ensure better government action against SGBV. The Health Committee, meanwhile, would be addressing the health implications associated with victims of SGBV.
“The conference is mainly is about synchronizing opinions or recommendations to have a broader understanding of what have already agreed upon or crafted,” Pervist said. “The government will be submitting this roadmap to other partners like women’s groups, international organizations, and CSOs. We will share the roadmap with them and they will have their contributions toward that and we will leave from there with practical solutions.”
Meanwhile, Tamia Koteah, one of the leaders of the three-day anti-rape campaign, commends the government for the steps taken so far.
“We did not come out to fight president or government,” she said. “It was just a call to action for the government to see the need to speedily carrying out their plans if they have any in the pipeline. We wanted them to understand that rape isn’t something that you’re going to take your own time to address because it is becoming a threat to the lives of women and children.”
She commended the government for being inclusive in their plans: “We are here, we going to be part of the process to give our input and support towards the process.”
Koteah said she believes that a positive result will emerge from this conference, given the high level of interest from citizens and international organizations. However, she urged the government to move quickly, as more women and children are being raped every day.
Featured photo by Mafanta K. Jabateh