Liberia: More Than Me’s Sexual Abuse Report To be Released Soon While Gov’t Remains Mum on Second Probe
Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the report of an independent investigation into the sexual abuse of girls at the More Than Me (MTM) run school is due to be released soon.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
Although the date is unknown, FPA can confirm that the report was completed and submitted by Cllr. Negbalee Warner to the Liberian Board Advisory of MTM.
MTM is an American charity founded in 2009 by Katie Meyler to help get girls from the streets into school. Most of the charity work focused on teenagers of West Point – a very impoverished slum community in Monrovia.
News about the imminent release of the independent report comes days after the resignation of Ms Meyler, CEO and founder of MTM.
Meyer resignation comes six months after the damning report by ProPubica revealing how her charity missed opportunities to prevent the serial rape of girls in its care.
Following the report, the local board of MTM issued a statement on October 14, 2018, suggesting the reviewing of allegations by a panel. the board demanded that the panel will have no one who was associated with the incidents involved.
Some of the panel members included National Civil Society Organization, Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), Independent Human Rights Commission, REACH, Servant of All Prayer (SOAP) and Disaster Victims Association of Liberia.
According to the board, they uncovered several statements that were either inconsistent with the information provided to them by MTM leadership or that there was new information.
Court documents had revealed that the girls were raped from the onset of the NGO. The perpetrator was originally described as the charity’s co-founder, an ex-combatant Macintosh Johnson, with whom it is said that Katie had a sexual relationship.
Soon after the founding, according to witnesses, and court documents, Johnson began raping the girls who were as young as 10 years.
Katie herself admitted that the number of girls, who were raped at the MTM Academy, could have been a quarter of the school; adding: “Everyone over the age of 11.”
Meyler was asked to step aside while the panel was conducting its investigation.
No Report from Government
While the released of the Cllr Warner report nears, the report of another investigation by the government is still far fetched. FPA has made several attempts speaking to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection about the avilaiblity of their report, but the Ministry has remained mum.
On October 16, 2018, the Government of Liberia through Williametta Saydee Tarr, Minister of Gender Children Social Protection, announced that the case will be re-opened in order to determine new evidence.
According to that release, the Ministry of Education was to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation and ensured that the regulation and compliance surrounding all schools are intensified; while Ministry of Health was to work to address all health issues relating to the matter.
The release added that the Ministry of Labor will investigate to determine whether there was strict adherence to the National HIV/AIDS workplace policy at More Than Me Academy and whether any labor laws were violated.
For the Ministry of Youth and Sports, they will lead the anti-stigmatization efforts to ensure the protection of the survivals and other unrelated persons, who may have otherwise been affected, it added.
Later, Ms. Tarr said at a press briefing that MTM had no child protection policy prior and after the reported rape saga. She said MTM exposed the students to sexual abuse.
Since November 2018, the Government remains mute on the findings surrounding the reopening of the case.
Feminist Group Mounts Pressure
Four months have passed yet none of the reports have been released based on investigations supposedly undertaken by the government and the MTM board respectively.
The delay has prompted concerns from several civil society groups including the Liberia Feminist Forum, who has been advocating and demanding actions to fix the system.
LFF has since launched two campaigns including #WeAreUnprotected# in 2018 to expose violations of women and girls rights in Liberia.
The campaign was launched following the ProPublica report about the abuse of girls in the care of the American charity. “We must have genuine, transparent action from the State as a demonstration of its commitment to protecting citizens’ rights. Women and girls make up 50% of our national population; contribute to the development of Liberia; and are human beings. We cannot just be Blue or express outrage, now we must act to end this crisis,” LFF said in a statement.