By Shallon S. Gonlor
NIMBA COUNTY — The Coordinator of Liberia’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection sub-office in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Madam Yah Belleh Suah has accused the Assistant Minister of Administration and others of the Gender Ministry of abandonment and discrimination of the local gender office in Sanniquellie during the year under review.
Madam Suah also alleged the ministry of playing a major role in numerous challenges her office endured including criminal buggery, lack of rape victims support, and logistics to enhance a smooth service among others, such, according to her was a result of political differences between the local office and heads of the Gender Ministry during the just ended presidential election in Liberia.
Established in 2001 by an Act of the National Legislature, the Ministry of Gender and Development amongst other things serves as a driving force of Government for the practicalization of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its related instruments including the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Rights of Children among others.
The Ministry is mandated to advise the Government on all matters affecting the development and welfare of women and children as well as any other matters referred to it by the Government.
But on the contrary, the coordinator of Liberia’s Gender Ministry sub-office in Nimba County is alarming intimidations and threats against her by Assistant Minister, Mamansie Kabba during the tense 2023 run-off election between outgoing President George Weah and President-elect Joseph Boakai.
Speaking to journalists at her office in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Madam Yah Belleh Suah accused the Assistant Minister of Administration at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection of an act of abandoning, discriminating, intimidating and threatening to remove her from her post if President Weah could win the just ended election.
According to her, the drama had started when she (Madam Suah) pledged her political allergen to the presidential bid of Amb. Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party, while the Assistant Minister, a supporter of President George Weah called on her and her local staffers in Nimba County to rally support for President Weah of the ruling CDC re-election, but she turned the Minister’s request.
On October 10th, 2023, Liberia held general elections leading to a runoff on November 14th between President George Weah and challenger Joseph Boakai. The election marks the culmination of a longstanding political rivalry between the two candidates and supporters.
Following the 14 November 2023 run-off election, Liberian President George Weah conceded defeat to opposition leader Joseph Boakai after a tight runoff election, provisional results, paving the way for Liberia’s second democratic transfer of power in over seven decades.
The Nimba County Gender Ministry Coordinator averred that due to the tense political differences between her and some senior officials in the ministry’s head office difficulties were encountered, adding that despite an array of the challenges, she accomplished a lot in gender violence-related cases reported to the office.
Making the office performance report during the year under review, Madam Yah Belleh Suah said during the year 2023, her office recorded about 36 SGBV-related cases and forwarded the same to the Ministry of Justice through the office of Nimba County Attorney for prosecution in court at the Sexual Offenses Court of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie, Nimba County.
She further contended that most of the rape victims were between the ages of 5 to 16 years, adding that those victims in critical medical need are currently at the safe-home unit in Sanniquellie, while some have been reunited with their families.
To break the cycle of sexual violence, there must be unwavering empowerment of survivors by ensuring their voices are heard, their stories are acknowledged, and their rights are protected. Legal reforms should prioritize survivor-centered justice and increase the prosecution of perpetrators.
Survivors of sexual violence require comprehensive support services to aid in their recovery and reintegration into society.
The government and partners must invest in holistic programs that address the physical, psychological, and social needs of survivors, including accessible, affordable healthcare, trauma-informed counseling, vocational skills training, and educational opportunities. Collaboration amongst government agencies, civil society organizations, and international partners is crucial in establishing and sustaining these vital support networks.
It also requires a whole of society approach that involves men and women, and boys and girls in the fight against gender-based violence.
Pervasive patriarchal norms can be changed by promoting gender equality and positive masculinity, where men and boys actively challenge harmful behaviors and attitudes; stand in solidarity with survivors, advocate for their rights, and hold other boys and men accountable.