Community Leaders in Margibi County Vow to Uphold Women’s Rights, Protect Women from Sexual & Gender-Based Violence

Participants of the three-day workshop in Compound Town, Margibi County aimed at strengthening community to protect women and girls from Sexual & Gender-Based Violence

Margibi County – Thirty community leaders in Margibi County have pledged to respect the rights of women and girls and protect them from Sexual and Gender and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in their respective communities.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

The leaders, including men and women, made the vow at the end of a three-day workshop aimed at creating awareness on SGBV and enlightening community leaders in responding and addressing SGBV or GBV cases in their communities.

The exercise, according to the organizer ActionAid Liberia, is part of a three-year project funded by the European Union that is being implemented in Gbarpolu, Margibi and Montserrado Counties.

“The objectives of the training are to increase understanding around sexual and gender-based violence and women’s rights; and also to empower them to be able to address GBV issues that arise in their various communities,” explains Justina Kanneh, Program Coordinator of ActionAid Liberia.

She added: “We are also looking at them to put in place community protection mechanisms that will be able to protect women and girls and other vulnerable groups in the community.”

Speaking to a team of reporters at the end of the workshop on Friday, May 31, the beneficiaries thanked ActionAid for the training and promised to implement the knowledge gained. 

“It was rewarding and knowledgeable. The training gave us broad knowledge to us as participants. People are very violent against their women and People and don’t often go by the law,” said Kollie Dennis.

“With the help of the training workshop, we will try to apply and stop the bad practices. As community leaders, we will help to carry out the awareness to other people who are not here.” 

Another participant, Satta Holder, a mother of seven and resident of Vartekeh Township, said the training was enlightenment for her. 

Due to the training, Satta noted that she has come to the realization that some of the entrenched cultural practices where boys were preferred to go to school over the girls and given inheritance rights while girls were only thought to be housewives were weapons used to deprived women from reaching their potential and to deny them of their fundamental rights. 

She promised to not repeat such unfair treatment against her girls’ children and to reach out to her community members who were not part of the training in spreading the message.

Said Satta: “They took all our rights from us and gave it to our brothers. Our parents only used to send our brothers to school and made us stay at home and learn to be housewives. So, we didn’t have rights. And when they have properties, the boys will take care of the properties and girls will not have right to them.”

“From this training, I know that we have rights. When I go back to my community, I will call a meeting and pass on the information to the others who were not able to be here. And the message is clear: Men should not beat on their women; men should not abandon the women and leave them with all of the children. Man, don’t marry the woman and you take the woman as your property. The woman is not your property.” 

Also Speaking, Mary Passewe, the Town Chief of Larkay Town, vowed to ensure that no woman in her town is abused and go unpunished as it has been in the past.

She narrated a case involving a woman who was allegedly beaten (physically assaulted) by her husband and when she complained to the police officer (named unknown) assigned to the area, the police refused to act because the man was working for him (the Police) to process his charcoal.

This, according to the Chief gave the man more grounds and threw the woman out of their home with their two children. 

“Explained Chief Passewe: “When the Police told her that he was not able to do anything because the man is burning his coal, the woman was vexed. She carried the case to the traditional leaders and when we went to meet the man, he told us that he took the woman from the street. 

“He didn’t marry the woman but he has two children by her. So, I should go and be present for the woman to pack her things from his house and get out. That’s how I told him that I was attending training and when I come back I will look into it. ”