Liberia: Panelists Highlight Issues Affecting Women On Int’l Women Day
Monrovia – The March 8 International Women’s Day celebration in Monrovia, was celebrated by many different woman groups in and around the city. However, by evening, some women and few men gathered at Fuzion, an entertainment spot, to take part in a panel discussion, organized by Help Our People Excel (HOPE).
Report by Mae Azango [email protected]
The panel discussion was held under the theme, ‘Brave Girl Rising’. The panelists Rev. Katurah York Cooper, of the Empowerment Temple AME Church, Rivercess County Representative Rosana Schaack, Satta Sherriff, founder, Youth in Action for Peace and Empowerment, (YAPE) and Hawa D. Varney, Director, Adolescent Girls Division, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, spoke on issues affecting women and girls and proffered ways forward in addressing them.
The discussion was an interactive one as questions and comments came from the men, too. One of the panelists, who commented on women’s political affiliation, was Ne-suah Beyan Livingstone, founder of Rescue Abandoned Children in Hardship (REACH).
“There is a sudden change of women when it comes to our political affiliation. I hear women in politics telling other women in advocacy, to shut up when politics is being discussed. It is not supposed to be that way. If our leaders would stand up for the women, girls and children, we won’t be having the problems we are having today,” Madam Livingstone said.
According to her, one of the reasons women lose their voices is when everything seems alright because ‘the power that be’ is their choice.
“So they become blindfolded and do not speak to the issues when their ‘candidates’ are doing the wrong things,” said Livingstone.
Rev. Cooper, another of the panelists, spoke about the religious community, in which she is a member. She has at least 700 people in her congregation.
“Those of us, who profess to be followers of the Gospel of love, peace and justice and can’t use the great influence of our pulpits, then we are not ready to take care of our young people,” said Rev. Cooper.
Rev. York stressed that those churches that “disturb all night,” should also use their pulpits to speak against ills affecting women in their communities.
“I asked in our chat room of bishops and clergy people if they preach about sexual gender-based violence in their various churches. Sadly, nobody replied. Mind you, these are the very people who do a lot of commentaries on politics,” she stated.
She termed rape to be more about power than about sex.
“Rape is the power to do with a person’s body whatever you want to do with it. The question is what can we do to increase the level of power in women so that they can have control over their situation and can protect themselves from violent situations? So how do we make females more powerful, because the more power you have will make someone to have less power over you?”
Responding to a question on why some men rape, Hawa D. Varney, Director, Adolescent Girls Division, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, said it puzzles her and seems very insane to hear grown up men raping.
For Rep. Schaack, she pointed out mental illness as one reason for rape. “Men who rape are just sick in their heads.” The Rivercess County lawmaker urged that more awareness needs to be carried out to report rape cases.
For Satta Sherriff, founder, Youth in Action for Peace and Empowerment, (YAPE) violence against women, including rape, is not justifiable in any form.
“The way a lady dresses, does not make it right for her to be raped. Why should a nine-month-old baby and a three-year-old child be raped by a grown man? This is completely pathetic and insane. Why would society want to justify it by saying it is because of the indecent way women dress. The reason why violence against women is so high, is because much is not being done; we need to do more to protect women and girls,” Sherriff added.
A participant claiming to be a #HeforShe asked about the recent situation in Sinoe County where two women were paraded naked in the streets.
Panelist Schaack said a lawmaker of Sinoe had told her that the incident occurred in 2018 and that the women were three but one had died. She disclosed that efforts are on the way to relocate the two women, who are visible in the video, which took Facebook by storm.
A movie, ‘Brave Girl Rising’, which was also the theme of the day’s discussion, was screened. Participants made donations to HOPE so that it can reach at least 400 girls in nine counties.