Monrovia – Monday, November 25 saw an unusual scene in Monrovia when group of women and men, dressed in all black held a candlelight vigil demanding an end to all forms of gender based violence against women and girls in Liberia.
The event marked the beginning of the 16 days of activism for the elimination of violence against women globally.
The ‘16 Days of Activism’ held from November 25 – December 10 every year is a global campaign dedicated to ending gender based Violence.
It has a a long history of women and human rights groups organizing to mobilize actions aimed at recognizing gender based violence as a human rights issues.
While the event kicked of nationally in the Port City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on Monday, a candlelight vigil was held under the auspices of the “Ending Violence against Women and Girls (EVANG) Cluster.
EVANG comprises of several INGOs including KVINNA till KVINNA Liberia, medica Liberia, ActionAid, OXFAM, Plan International and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
The group said while previous events had been characterized by fanfare and speeches, this year, they have decided to assemble in all black and in silence as a symbolic way of telling policy makers and duty bearers that there was nothing more to say about gender based violence against women and girls, accept action to stop the menace.
“Today we are not going to give speeches. We are going to seal our mouths with the black cloths as a symbolic way of venting our anger against sexual and gender based violence against women and girls. We will all seal our mouths in honor of victims and perpetrators and in anger to our call to action,” said Caroline Bowah Brown, Country Director of Medica Liberia leading the vigil.
“We are simply saying we are tired of being raped, abused, and married at 13 years old. We’re just tired and we are not giving any speech. This is our call to action through our silences, and we believe our silence is powerful.”
Speaking at the start of the event, the General Advisor of Plan International, Elizabeth Bah said despite all effort exerted by local and international NGOs, there continues to be an increase in violence against women and children.
“This year national theme says we should stay blue. We have stayed blue, we have worn black every Thursday, but the narrative is still not changing. So, we are now coming together as international organizations to call the duty bearers’ attention to say we have spoken. We are sure you have heard us, we now want you to implement and be accountable to us,” she said.
Despite stringent law against domestic violence including rape in Liberia, SGBV cases continue to rise. From January to September 2019, about 2025 SGBV cases have been reported.
Medica Liberia’s Country Director, Caroline Bowah Brown, speaking at the event said the number was unacceptable.
“We are here tonight to say we are angry, we are sad, we are upset and we want to call for attention, for action, to end violence against women. We are here wearing these blacks to show solidarity, to be able to highlight the experiences of women,” she averred.
Meanwhile, one of the poignant moments of the vigil on Monday was the ordeal of Cynthia Sherman, Mother of the late Odell Sherman who met her untimely death on the 21st of May this year at a house she and her friends were camping for the West African Senior School Examinations Council Exams (WASSCE).
Her family contended that she was raped and murdered, but after a long investigation that involved series of autopsies, Police said she died of natural causes.
Madam Sherman, in tears said it was frustrating that despite glaring pieces of evidence that her late daughter died of rape, and despite all effort exerted by families and solidarity groups, justice eluded her late daughter.
“The Minister of Justice and Patrick Sudue [Police boss] all sat on the case and there was no justice. People said rape cases are not reported that is why there is no justice, but this case was reported. I moved from [police] stations to stations, but all of my efforts fell on useless ground,’ she lamented.
“I have been very much frustrated, my heart is broken. She was the only daughter of my life and she had been my sister, and I protected her during the course of the war. To just lose her when she was full grown is unbearable. My life is useless now because I am living like I am not.”
Meanwhile, the vigil was characterized by recitation of inspirational poems by young advocates and volunteers.