“Gender Balance Will Mitigate Sexual Violence” -Youth Activist, Calls for Int’l Support

MONROVIA – The Advocacy Officer of the teenage based girls civil society group, Girls Alliance for Future Leadership, Kadiatu Bah, has told members of the diplomatic corps and heads of UN agencies in the country that the surest way of ending or mitigating the impact of sexual gender-based violence and all kinds of crimes against the Liberia girl child is to ensure gender balance at the male dominated Liberia National Legislature where laws are made to protect women and children.

In a statement delivered at a fund-raising dinner for the Girls Alliance project 18+1 Action committee, She asserted that with the gender gap at the current first branch of government, it  makes it impossible for any meaningful legislation that protects women and girls to gain traction in that body. She referred to the Domestic Violence Bill passed into law in 2019 without the key component of baring Female Genital Mutilation.

Miss Bah used the occasion to make a passionate plea to the diplomatic community and United Nations Agencies in Liberia to consider funding her organization as they endeavor to ensure gender balance at the Liberia National Legislature come 2023 Election.

She noted that the Liberian media is consistently full of stories of rape, sexual abuse of minors, ritualistic killings to which victims (girl’s children), their parents and loved ones cannot get justice, stressing that in addition to this predicament is the Liberia government’s refusal to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, a cultural menace that remains the most existential danger to every girl child in this country. “Not only that it is harmful to the physical body of girls, but it is also a legal window for child bride and sexual violence against women and girls”, she said.

The fifteen year old advocate said she considers FGM practice a legal window for Child bride and violence against the Liberia girl child because law makers on capitol hill have capped Female Genital Mutilation as a sacred cultural rite of their traditional leaders, adding that everyone in Liberia knows that perpetrators of FGM recruit minor females as young as nine-year-old.  According to Kadiatu most girls are whisked into marriage immediately after their initiation.

“We have written press releases, held peaceful rallies, matched on the capital with statements to law makers, written letters to the president, the speaker of the house and president pro-tem of senate, all to no avail”, she lamented. She said what is baffling with the fight against the abuse of women is that the drafting of the OAU Charter on Human and People’s Rights was done in Monrovia, Liberia by the Assembly of Heads of State and government of the then Organization of African Unity(OAU) at its Sixteenth Ordinary Session .

She explained that the assembly of Heads of State and government of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), at its Sixteenth Ordinary Session in Monrovia held from July 17 to 20, 1979 which recognized the need to act appropriately to promote and protect the rights and welfare of the African Child and that the drafted document was ratified by States as the African Union charter on Children’s right to which Liberia is a signatory.

Miss Bah further said unfortunately  members of both chambers of the Liberia national legislature ignored the provision in Article 1.3 of the OAU now the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of children which states, “Any custom, tradition, cultural or religious practice that is inconsistent with the rights, duties and obligations contained in the present Charter shall by the extent of such inconsistency be discouraged,” to have capped Female Genital Mutilation as the sacred cultural rite of their traditional leaders.

The young activist continued that even at the celebration of this year’s Day of the African Child which was held on June 16, 2022, her organization called on the President and the legislature to revisit the Domestic Violence Bill passed into law in 2019 to include the barring of FGM for kids in Liberia. FGM, she added has health implication, it is a menace that is having huge toll on the Liberian girls’ Children, a justified pipeline for Child bride, and it is inconsistent with the ECOWAS-AU treaty on the rights of Children.

Kadiatu who claimed that the Liberia government is violating the rights of the Liberian girl child, said while they are endeavoring to submit a formal complaint on the issue of the inconsistency of the FGM practice with the ECOWAS-AU treaty on the rights of Children to ECOWAS and the AU, the real remedy and long enduring solution to their plight is ensuring gender balance at the national legislature.

“We are focusing our energy on working to support female candidates running for the house of representatives and the senate to ensure gender balance at the national legislature, and for that we need your financial support. The 18+1 Action Committee, a framework for electing more women to the Liberia National legislature. We are not politicians, nor allied with any political party. We are an independent, not for profit, non-governmental civil society group. This is a huge financial undertaking. We need your support”, Kadiatu concluded.

In response to Girls Alliance appeal Kate Nomson, Charge D’ Affairs at the British Embassy said she was excited by what she called the emerging young leaders of Liberia. Madam Nonso said she believed she heard the voices of future senators, representatives, cabinet ministers and even a future president among the voices of the girls at the dinner. She noted that over the years the British government gave huge support to the education of the Liberian girl child.

The British diplomat condemned the practice of FGM adding culture cannot be justification for such practice. According to her, it is all about putting women down saying being a woman anywhere in the world is difficult. She pledged the embassy’s support to the girls’ effort.

The deputy country representative of the United Nations women, Pamela Mkwaba applauded the girls’ initiative noting that it was a giant step in the right direction.  Other foreign dignitaries at the program including Dwede Tareh, program officer on gender, Swedish Embassy, Esther Ahunche head of Chancery at the Nigerian Embassy, Godwin Mawuli Klu head of the Consular Section Ghanaian Embassy, and Aaron Sleh head of Support Service at the world Food program Liberia pledged support to the girls.

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