The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr stresses the urgent need to end sexual gender-based violence against children, noting that the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity & Development (PAPD) of the government of the coalition for Democratic Change led by President George Manneh Weah aspires to ensure that abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children are addressed through Juvenile Diversion Program to be available in eight counties.
The Gender Minister additionally said as part of government’s commitment to uphold the protection and dignity of Children, the PAPD underscores Child Justice and Child Protection Implementation Plan, Strengthening Juvenile Diversion Program, Identifying and filling critical gaps of human resource, infrastructure, quality service delivery, and logistical support financially for child justice initiatives to improve child justice and combat child trafficking.
“Today, the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection joins the rest world for the official commemoration of THE DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD (DAC). Historically, the DAC came in being on June 16, 1976 when nearly 10,000 black students from Soweto, South Africa, marched on the street to demand their rights to quality Education and to be taught in their own language. This action on the part of the students prompted the Apartheid reign to use lethal and non-lethal weapons thereby killing hundreds of them,” Gender Minister Tarr asserted.
She indicated that as a way of honoring those who participated in the Soweto uprising to raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children, the Organization of African Unity now African Union in 1991 sets this day aside, noting that DAC also raises awareness to foster collaborative efforts to ensure that Africa does not continue with this trend.
Liberia as a member state of the AU, she said, joins the annual celebration of the DAC by organizing several activities ranging from community engagements to workshop and talent festivity amongst the children. “This year’s celebration is hinged on key objectives, which include creating awareness on the rights, capabilities and potential of children and draw attention to the situation of sexual violence, child marriage.
“It is also intended to: Ensure the participation and inclusion of all children, regardless of their background, economic and disability status in nationally organized children programs; create awareness on the importance of child protection and education; and advocate for the increase of support through national budget for adequate service delivery to children and ensure funding is also allotted for activities of the Liberia National Children’s Representative Forum.”
She explained that the 2019 DAC celebration is being held under a Global theme ‘Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children’s Rights First, while Liberia’s National Theme is: Children’s Rights Are Human Rights–Liberia Is No Exception; Let’s Take Action.’
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate this year’s Day of the African Child, the MGCSP’s aspiration is to renew its commitment, strengthen coordination, and collaboration with partners, communities, civil society groups and other local and International Stakeholders, as well as the Liberia National Children Representative Forum(LNCRF) to ensure that all Children within the confines of the Republic of Liberia are protected, and that, services for children are available and accessible through Social Protection, Health, Education amongst others” she said.
Minister Tarr reaffirms Liberia’s commitment to the fulfillment of the true meaning of celebrating the Day of the African Child, where the dignity of the African children are ensured and that their rights to education, healthcare, and other social services are fully protected.
As part of this obligation, she ac accentuated the country’s commitments guided by human rights-based approach, which she said calls for focusing on those who are most marginalized, excluded or discriminated against, as statistics have shown that children are the most affected.
The SGBV Report of 2018, according to her, showed that children between the ages of 0-17 years were mostly affected which accounts for 76.4%with 1,210 rape cases reported affecting children between the ages of 0-17 years. The 2019 1st Quarter SGBV Report shows again children between the ages of 0-17 years are the most affected, accounting for 75.3% of the total cases reported.
She maintained that it is now time that rights holders and duty bearers jointly work in an effort to end this widespread of sexual and gender based violence. “While, rights holders and duty bearers are considered a two-way street, considering the fact that Individuals and communities need to be fully informed about their rights to participate in decisions that affect them amongst others, “we would like to inform the general public that the long awaited passage of the Domestic Violence Bill is finally in the process of being passed as we have been engaged with all actors including our traditional council, our youth and women organizations to ensure that we all lobby with the National Legislature for its full passage.
At the same time, there is a draft of the FGM Bill that will be submitted to the National Legislature after series of engagements with our traditional councils, our chiefs and elders, the FGM Working Group, AFELL, Youth & Children organizations and leaderships, among others. These engagement processes is crucial as it recognizes that people are actors in their own development, rather than passive recipients of services.
“Informing, educating and empowering our children are essential as their participation is central, not only to ensure they have ownership, but also to sustain progress,” she asserted further noting, “Therefore, the passages of these bills will further help in curbing all violence against our women, girls and children as well as protecting them. “
She said these efforts are part of our obligations as an arm of the government to take active steps to put in place, laws and policies to enable everyone, including our vulnerable children to enjoy their rights.
“The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection would like to reecho the need for a safe space for every Liberian child as enshrined in our mandate. While we all remain the duty bearers in ending all forms of violence against our women, girls and children; we, as a Ministry, are also deeply concerned about putting an end to the wide spread of sexual and gender based violence within our communities and schools,” he added.
The Gender Minister pointed out that while her ministry does not hope for these incidences and in response to SGBV cases, the Ministry remains committed in ensuring that justice is served to all survivors and/or victims, as well as their families, featuring some updates of cases including “Alleged Gang Rape in Bong County,; Alleged Rape Leading to Death in Congo Town; Alleged Sexual Abuse; Alleged Rape at Christian Association of the Blind; and Alleged Child Abuse (Beating) in the ELWA Community.”