IRC in Liberia Embarks on "16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence"
In late November and early December the IRC in Liberia joined scores of organizations around the world to recognize the worldwide celebration of “Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.” IRC social workers led a host of planned activities in eight communities and ten different camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) around the capital city. Additional special events were planned to raise awareness in remote Nimba and Lofa counties.
The various parades, games and dramatic performances focused on this year’s international theme: ‘For the health of women, for the health of the world: no more violence.’ “All kinds of gender-based violence—rape, domestic abuse, and even verbal assault—drastically impacts the health of women,” said Gertrude Garway, one of three gender-based violence (GBV) managers with the IRC in Liberia. “It takes healthy women to make healthy societies,” added Musu Oberly, assistant program manager and one of the organizer of this year’s activities.
The international campaign, held each year since 1991, highlights the connections between women, violence, and human rights. The annual observance kicks off on November 25th, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and draws to a close on global Human Right’s Day on December 10th.
In addition to the special activities and events in the IDP camps, the IRC helped to raise awareness about violence against women by participating in a live national broadcast on local Radio Veritas, and a symposium at the Ministry of Gender discussing gender-based violence from a global perspective. Citing examples from Bosnia, Rwanda and Bangladesh, IRC GBV trainers Edwin Morlu and Isaac Abbey explained how sexual violence is a problem that plagues many societies. “During the war in Liberia, rape was used systematically as a weapon to subjugate the population. Showing that it is a global problem helps people to understand that it is not just a problem in this society. It shows both the survivors and the perpetrators that steps can be taken to prevent and respond to this epidemic,” said Abbey.
Morlu and Abbey also raised awareness about the white ribbon campaign in Liberia. “This campaign is designed to identify Liberian men who are role models; men who can stand up and say with pride that they realize the devastating impact of violence against women and girls,” said Morlu. White ribbon campaigns began in the aftermath of the 1989 Montreal massacre, when an armed gunman murdered 14 female engineering students. Men who participate pledge never to commit nor condone violence against women, and resolve to work for gender equality. “One of our primary roles is to make sure that we involve men,” said Morlu. “They are a part of the problem and therefore need to be part of the solution"”
The IRC’s Liberia GBV program began in 2002 and is currently operational in eight selected communities within Monrovia, eleven IDP camps in Montserrado County, and will soon be active in ten communities in Nimba, Bomi and Lofa Counties. The IRC is the lead international non-governmental organization coordinating GBV activities to women in Liberia and globally, the IRC is recognized as a leader in implementing GBV programming in humanitarian settings.