MONROVIA – Child Rights Advocate Saykwayee Harmony Henry has blamed the increasing waves of violence against women and children in Liberia to government’s complacency in tracking and adjudicating cases against alleged perpetrators.
Ms. Henry is the Executive Director of Kids Development Initiative (KDI) based in Harbel, Margibi County that has been in the vanguard of helping vulnerable young children between ages seven and 15 to acquire requisite leadership skills and knowledge to be productive citizens.
According to her, the situation is undermining her organization’s work as more children and women continue to be victimized and their future destroyed.
Said Ms. Henry: “We have noticed that the cases of rape and violence against women and children continue to increase and the Ministry of Gender is not working on these issues in tracking down cases and alleged perpetrators. Every day there are reports of children being rape, but you hardly hear of people being sentenced for raping and abusing women and children,” she vented.
The increase of cases with no speedy trial leads to more rape and violence against women and children. People who are alleged are sometimes kept behind bars for two to three years and later released when found not guilty by the court. Therefore, we are pleading with the Government of Liberia to speed up these with cases justly through the Ministry of Justice and the court system.”
She made the assertions during the launch of a campaign aimed at enlightening children, especially girls about their rights as a tool for empowering them to stand up for themselves as the government is failing them.
“Children and women are being let down every time an innocent child is raped; they are being abandoned when that safe environment is lacking,” she lamented.
According to her, the ‘Capacity for Action Project Deliverables’ is also aimed at engaging more men who are often perpetrators of violence against women and girls and discussing with them the situations women are faced with when their rights are being abused.
“It is aimed at enhancing the knowledge of children and capacitating them to apply the knowledge learned to advocate for the protection and promotion of their rights and their marginalized colleagues through media engagements and onsite activities such as community dialogues and awareness,” Ms. Henry noted.
The one month community engagement is under the theme “The importance of Women and Girls Rights” and will also rally the support of men to serve as champions for the protection and promotion of women’s rights in their communities.
Meanwhile, as part of the campaign, Ms. Henry, and the Speaker of the Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum, Jutomue Doetein
On Sunday visited the Providence Baptist Church on Broad Street.
Addressing the congregation, they called on adults and the young people, especially the male to work collectively in combatting violence against women and girls.
“Society has placed us as a weaker vessels, and because of that, the men are taking advantage of us. So, we must stand up for our rights. And the best way we can do that is through education,” Ms. Henry noted while addressing the women and girls.
She added that 99 percent of violence against women are perpetrated by men, and it was now time for men to stand up and support the women to flourish and make Liberia a better place.
Also speaking, Doetein called on the girls to not allow unfavourable touching and gestures from the boys, teachers and male relatives because they eventually lead to rape and other forms of sexual violence.
He disclosed that the Liberian National Children’s Representative Forum is an organization that seeks the welfare of all Liberian children and called on every child to join the group.
When asked why she decided to launch the program, Ms. Henry asserted that in Liberia, Violence against women, especially sexual violence is an everyday reality and as such there was a need to wage a campaign against the menace.
“This is above all appalling given that a little over three quarters of Liberia’s population of 4.4 million consists of women and children. The right to live a life free from all forms of violence is a cornerstone of major universal human rights documents. The preamble of the children’s law of Liberia states the aspiration of the people of Liberia to ensure that all present and future children in Liberia should enjoy progressive dignified life,” she intoned.
She thanked her partners and sponsors including the Liberia Diaspora Initiative (LIDIN), NAYMOTE, Partners for Democratic Development, President Young Professional Program (PYPP), Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia (YOCEL), Youth Action for Rural Development (YARD), Youth Media Action (YMA), and the Youth Media Network (YMN) for their support.