Since the publication of the ProPublica documentary on More Than Me (MTM) Saga, the existence of the MTM as an institution has become a subject of controversy. The publication unearthing the seduction of school-age teenagers under consent by the institution’s director (now deceased) generated heated debate characterizing protestations for and against the closure of the More Than Me. In the wake of the controversy attending the saga, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection on Thursday, November 15, 2018, at the MICAT regular press briefing provided an update on the More Than Me Academy ongoing investigation and the upcoming Observance of the 16 days of activism.
Gender Press Briefing – MTM Academy & 16 Days of Activism
November 15, 2018
Since the publication of the ProPublica documentary on More Than Me (MTM) Saga, which has also witnessed series of protests from various groupings, with one group calling for the closure of the school and other inclusive of the students and parents, calling for the school to remain open among other things, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and other line Ministries, have been seriously engaging to ensure a logical conclusion.
During one of the protests held on Thursday, October 18, 2018, a petition was received by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, with the protesters demanding the immediate closure of the school, while during the students and parents protest held on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, the PTA Leadership, West Point Community youth leadership and some students were received in the Office of H.E. Dr. George M. Weah as they demanded that the school remains open, and that Katie Meyler stay on board.
Following the separate protest, H.E. Dr. George M. Weah, instructed that the relevant Ministries (Ministries of Health and Gender) immediately meet the school’s administration to proceed with the students HIV/AIDS counseling and testing; and that the Ministry of Gender come out with findings to conclude the matter amongst other things.
Upon the instructions of the President, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has taken the following actions:
- On Wednesday, October 23, 2018, conducted a meeting by the Ministries of Education and Gender, represented by Hon. Lathim Dathong and Hon. Lydia Mai-Sherman, respectively inclusive of the MTM Academy’s administration and the institution’s Local Advisory Board (LAB) Chairperson, Hon. Dorbor Jallah and the PTA Leadership.
During the meeting, briefing on the President’s instructions was made clear with the following action points:
- That the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection work along with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to do the anti-stigmatization messages and awareness;
- That MTM calls a PTA Meeting, notifying the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in order to have a representative present, among others
With the mandate that the Ministry of Gender proceed to come up with findings concluding the matter, a letter was written to the MTM Academy to ascertain their level of compliance during their operations prior to the school’s opening and onwards to the period of the incidence in 2014.
A response was immediately communicated by the MTM Academy along with dossier of documents that were requested. On Friday, October 26, 2018, the technical team of the Ministry reviewed the documents and observed generally that MTM Academy was not in compliance as an institution catering for young vulnerable girls during the period of their opening, and even after the incidence. It was also observed that the institution started being in compliance earlier this year – 2018.
- MTM never had a Child Protection Policy in placed when the school opened even up to the time and after the incident occurred in 2014. That the Child Protection Policy of MTM was approved on February 8, 2018;
- That there is no approval date of the MTM Policy for Child Protection regarding Media which could easily determine the time it became effective
- That there is no proof of reference or recommendation letter for staff
- It was observed that some students date of birth do not match on both registration forms (Media Consent Form), amongst others.
Additionally, the Ministry of Gender, Children along with the Ministry of Youth & Sports held a meeting with some parents and the PTA Leadership headed by Mr. Solomon J. Dennue at the Ministry’s offices on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. The objective of the meeting was to get their involvement in the anti-stigmatization and psychosocial plan. During the meeting it was suggested that they (PTA) meet independently as parents, and a planned meeting was scheduled for Sunday, November 4, 2018.
As part of their civic responsibility, the PTA meeting was held on Sunday, November 4, 2018 with over 100 persons. Decisions reached in the meeting are as followed:
- That the Parents do not want to be part of the anti-stigmatization campaign. Because according to them it did not happen when the incident occurred in 2014: That their participation will show that it is indeed true that their children are HIV/AIDS carriers which they believe that it is not true;
- Concerning the HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, that the parents do not trust the health practitioners on grounds that the previous test conducted in 2014 was exposed to the media which they feel uncomfortable about (No confidentiality). Therefore, they have refused for any testing of their children.
However, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is working closely with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to carry out the anti-stigmatization campaign.
UPDATE ON THE LAUNCH OF THE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM:
Liberia will join the rest of the World in commemoration of the 27th edition of 16-Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, a global campaign originated from the first women’s global leadership institute dedicated to ending Gender Based Violence against women and girls from November 25th-December 10th.
The campaign focuses on strategies designed by civil society groups, local and international Non-governmental Organizations and Governments, around the world, to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.
The 2018 Campaign of Activism will be observed under a Global Theme “END GENDER BASED VIOLENCE IN THE WORLD OF WORK, while Liberia will commemorate the 16-Days under a National Theme, “End Gender Based Violence In Work Places, Schools and Communities: Take Action, Report It and Promote a Liberia Free of Violence.” This year’s observance marks Liberia’s 17th commemoration of the 16-Days of Activism since it was firstly observed in 2001.
ü This year’s campaign reinforces the need to galvanize, not only political will, but to generate a concerted efforts across the length and birth of Liberia so as to continue the fight to make Liberia free of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), and other harmful practices which now undermines the human capital development needed for the world of work and schools respectively.
ü As part of the 16-days Observance, several key dates have been set aside globally in commemoration of the year’s campaign and activism.
ü On Friday, November 23, 2018, the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, MGCSP and partners, as a start of the commemoration of this year’s 16-Days of Activism, will hold a major Press Conference at its Capital Bye-pass offices. The conference is expected to be attended by several state actors as well as local and international women and child rights non-governmental organizations.
ü The Conference will be closely followed by a one-day National Prayer Service to be held on Sunday, November 25, 2018, at the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Congo Town. The service is intended to seek the intervention of God as Liberians go through the period of the 16-Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
ü Official Launch of the 16-Days: The launch of the 16-Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence will officially take place on Monday, November 26, 2018. It will begin with a parade in Montserrado County, after which an official indoor program will be held.
ü The observance of the 16-Days of Activism will continue On November 29, 2018 with the observance of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, While December 1st will witness the observance of World AIDS Day.
ü The Activism will continue on December 3rd & 6th with the celebration of the International Day of Disable Persons, and the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre respectively.
ü The climax of the 16-Days of Activism, will be held simultaneously across the country, while an official closing program will be held on December 10th the International Human Rights Day, in Ganta, Nimba County.
ü County Involvement: The Ministry is pleased to note that all 15-Counties will simultaneously launch the 16-Days of Activism on November 25, 2018. The Ministry county offices will work closely with partners in the counties during the 16-Days period to carry out awareness and sensitization activities in schools and communities respectively.
ü Other Activities:
- During the 16-Days of Activism, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection will launch the “SheDecides” Campaign; a global movement to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of every woman and girl.
This campaign is being established in Liberia as a new norm where every girl at the earliest cognitive period can make a decision about her body, her life and her future without question; and where every boy accepts that as a matter of fact. The “Shedecides” Campaign is aimed at supporting the fundamental rights of girls and women to decide freely about themselves and
b. Nationwide Awareness and Sensitization Campaigns:
By directive of Hon Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Republic of Liberia.