Liberia: YMCA-Liberia Deepens Program Interventions to Address Violence against Women, Girls and Promote Gender Mainstreaming Actions in Liberia


MONROVIA – The YMCA of Liberia through its Bread for the World (Bftw) sponsored Civil Peace Service Program (CPS), unites in the campaign against violence against women and girls in four counties in Liberia.  

The aim of the program is to create the space for young people to develop a voice to become agents of change and to be seen as critical contributors to their communities’ peace and development, the statement. 

In a statement, the YMCA said since 2020, the program has immensely taken actions to empower young women, girls and boys with requisite knowledge to participate and break the culture of silence while engaging young boys to develop and promote positive masculinity. It added that the program contributed towards achieving positive peace through its Non-violence and conflict sensitive media training and operation of a Peace Radio in Bong County, working with a spectrum of the youth population focusing on disadvantaged youth, young women and girls, and youth with disabilities in Montserrado, Bong, Nimba and Margibi Counties. 

In addition, the program works with motorcyclists to build peace as they are usually seeing as a group prone to violence, and also observe and intensify actions during major National and International campaigns including March 8- International Women’s Day, and June 16, Day of the African Child where through this year’s civic engagement activity, over 300 children submitted a petition against child trafficking to the Liberian Legislature. Other international campaigns include the September 21- International Day of Peace and the 16 days of Activism.  Through these interventions, young people are better prepared to work together to improve peer and stakeholder’s engagement, take action against all forms of violence against women and girls and become change agents in their communities. 

According to YMCA – Liberia, the youth-driven peace building program continues the effort to train, empower and connect young women and men to become change agents in their community, thereby contributing to peace and development. 

It said: “We continue to use our YMCA youth development “Subject to citizen” (S2C) approach, with the objective for young people to articulate their needs and interests in a non-violent manner. The program continues to contribute toward achieving positive peace, through its nonviolence, capacity building, leadership, peace Radio and peace club activities in the counties. The Program provides training and leads campaigns on women’s participation in governance and promoting gender equality. The issue of civic and voters education is key to upholding the democracy, yet, majority of the young people do not understand their rights and laws surrounding them thereby leading to low turn up in elections, violent protest and violent political propaganda that threatens the peace, these factors have deeply informed the YMCA to deepen our program interventions in these areas.”

Celebrating 16-Days of Activism 

In 2022, the YMCA joined nations around the world to mark the 16 days of Activism, which is an annual international campaign that kicked off on November 25 the International Day for the elimination of violence against women and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day., and was held under the theme, “UNITE , Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls.” Through its CPS program, the YMCA stands in solidarity with survivors and launched a public awareness campaign on December 28, and continues training young people to question gender stereotypes and take action against violence. 

Several youth-led activities to  mobilize youth peace advocates and volunteer across the counties to lead community outreach and campaigns were held to unite to prevent, protect, take action and promote what they want to change. Participants also posted messages on symbolic hands calling for an end to rape, sexual assault, sex for grades, early marriage and all forms of violence against women and girls, boys. These actions are in support of the YMCA Gender Policy and implementation of the Liberian Government Gender Action Plan.

Meanwhile, the CPS runs one of the single largest  Gender Mainstreaming and Safeguarding  programs across YMCAs in Liberia. The Program  addresses Gender issues and responsibilities for protection on all levels and at all branches, schools and at any activity of the YMCA. 

According to the YMCA, this component of the program has trained over 600 young people and certificated 20 trainees as youth facilitators upon completion of the advance level training across the four counties early this year. 

These young people, it noted, are leading peer-to-peer learning sessions, campaigns and engaging stockholders on civic actions amongst others in Four YMCA  Branches including Montserrado.

This year’s #16Days of activism kicked off at the YMCA Headquarters with its walk in and speak out public awareness campaign session.

CPS YMCA Coordinator, Decontee Eva George said YMCA joined the campaign engaging young people and community to unite and raise their voices against Gender based violence especially Violence against women and girls.

“We need to be intentional about this fight, we recognize and regret the harm and shame caused to the survivors yet it greatly concerns the family and community.  We must break the conspiracy of silence and say no to compromises, as we demand justice for the survivors at all time” Madam George said.  

Speaking on behalf of the young people Arkiel K. Attiem, Youth Representative to the YMCA Board, also read a stunning statistics on gender based violence in Liberia, noting rape is inhumane and wants authorities prosecute perpetrators to put an end to gender-based violence.

During the program and throughout the 16 days, several campaign documentaries produced by CPS youth video trainees were screened at the YMCA and at outreach in schools.

In attendance was the National General Secretary/CEO of the Liberia YMCA, Mr. E. Timotheus Kamaboakai, who noted “The 16 Days of Activism is a reminder that voices must be heard and young people must act. The message must never stop.” He called on young people to encourage themselves and also encourage others in adding their voices during the 16 Days of Activism.

“Let us all use our energies and use the opportunity to spread these messages by raising our voices, even beyond the 16 days of Activism.” He concluded.

Antje Schulz, Bread for the World Seconded Personnel to the YMCA hinted that the 16 Days of Activism focused on violence against women. She further elaborated on the importance of the theme, which is to build partnership.

Similarly, the YMCA hosted hundreds of kids in observance of the day of the African Child on June 16. It was held under the theme: “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice since 2013.” 

This campaign is in remembrance of the Soweto student’s massacre in 1971; this day has been set up to draw attention on the barriers and realities African children faced in order to receive quality education and thereby engaging duty bearers to take policy action. An indoor civic engagement  was organized through the YMCA Branches across four counties, with a warm up and learning session on the Liberian perspective with facts and information on child trafficking, reconnecting young children with their Culture, and presentation of Call to Action to Decision Makers. The program also assessed the status toward the protection and assistance of children who are at risk and victims of harmful practices in Liberia. During the program, kids were given the opportunity to present their views and ideas on child trafficking in Liberia.

A Resolution of Call to Action was presented to a member of the House of Representatives of Liberia and Chairman of the House standing committee on Youth and Sports, Representative Solomon George.

In the resolution read by one of the participants, the children called on the Legislature to speedily and unconditionally review all laws and policies on child trafficking – calling for their immediate passage. Rep. George assured the group that he would take the petition to the Lower House and introduce it for further actions. 

It was agreed that the young people through the CPS will make further up on the document before June of 2023. 

The children in their resolution also called on President George Weah to consider full implementation and support of the Laws on Child Trafficking without compromise, and the provision of increased support to the Ministry of Gender and Children Protection and other Non-governmental institutions to support survivors at safe homes.

A 2021 US State department Report on Child Trafficking in Liberia says in the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Liberia, and traffickers exploit victims from Liberia abroad.

Among numerous engagements in 2022, the program successfully engaged stakeholders through quarterly Civic engagement sessions, provided mentorship and support to the YMCA National Youth Peace Camp with over 100 young people, engaged 150 motorcyclists on positive masculinity in Totota, Bong County as well as supported the conduct of youth consultation. This process attracted 436 youth leaders on the status of youth across the country, conducting Inter-High School Peace Symposiums on Non-Violence at the G. W. Gibson School Auditorium in Monrovia with over 800, participants from schools in Monrovia as well as Peace Advocates from Gbarnga, Kakata, Montserrado and Nimba participated in the symposium.

“As the YMCA CPS comes to the end of the year, the YMCA remains a strong partner to youth development, promoting gender equality, nonviolence and fostering peace in the community,” Decontee said.

“Our programs will ensure that young men are empowered to question gender roles and stereotypes, to address their threats and challenges, to tackle toxic masculinity. While we continue to provide empowerment opportunities for Young women and girls to develop the agency to participate in decision-making at the community level.