• As Bridge Liberia, UNICEF and ECOWAS Radio celebrate the Day of the African Child

Leila B. Gbati

From Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s perspective, the state of Liberian children is changing and a lot has happened over the last 20 years.

VP Taylor made this statement on Thursday, June 17, 2022 at the celebration of the Day of the African Child organized by Bridge Liberia, UNICEF, and ECOWAS Radio under the theme “eliminating harmful practices affecting children: progress, policy, and practice since 20 years”.

Speaking during an interview with the children on ECOWAS, VP Taylor indicated that there are a lot of issues that are being handled so that they can now sit on the radio and talk about female genital mutilation, early mirage, and all of the important things that help a child grow up to be a positive person in society.

“I believe that when you look at where we have come from to where we are today, a lot has changed and the perception is a lot better,” she said.

According to her, there are current laws in place that require girls to be a certain age before they get into mirage, emphasizing that even though there are some communities that are still doing that, it is no longer acceptable for someone to give their 12-year-old daughter to someone in mirage.

She also said that the effect of education on the entire social and economic spectrum of life in Liberia has been felt and is very robust, which is a good thing.

The Vice President of Liberia told the children that information shared experiences, whether good or bad, are brought to the table and people gather around different forums to try to resolve them, which is a positive thing.

She further said that they are still dealing with a few issues like FGM and they are hoping that in the near future a bill will be passed because almost all of the countries around Liberia have passed anti-FGM bills, adding that “they will like to say that even education is now a priority in many instances for girls.” Before, parents would send their boys to school and say the girls would get married and it would be a waste of time, but now the family now realizes that girls are equally valued as boys, and so that too is a positive thing, and those are some of the few positive things that have happened over the past 20 years.

Speaking further, Madam Vice President noted that if you look at the entire scope of life, especially in Liberia, and the needs of girls, from education to health care, social counseling, mentoring, and leadership so that girls are able to step up to the plate, you get overwhelmed, and she has tried over the past 22 years with the Jewel Starfish Foundation, which has been in existence for the past 12 years, and they provide scholarships for girls, emphasizing that many organizations will just do meetings and different venues that bring girls together, but at the end, they will just be talking. So they send thousands of girls to school over the period through the foundation.

“We also do leadership training, mentorship, sexual gender-based violence teaching, and the Office of the Vice President is now involved in menstrual hygiene health for girls in schools across the country.” “We are working on providing free sanitary pads for girls in schools as we encourage them to go to school and be the best they can be, so I hope other people and international partners can join this initiative for our girls,” she said.

Also speaking during a panel discussion, the Communication Director of Bridge Liberia, Madam Melody Kettor, said that Bridge Liberia is making sure that Liberian children get the best education possible, for which they are providing school materials including textbooks, copy books, and pens, among others.

Madam Kettor indicated that Bridge Liberia also gives out tablets to teachers in order for them to teach their lessons.

She disclosed that Bridge Liberia is trying to have a digital class room in their various schools so that children can learn in a conducive manner and, most especially, for them to have digital experience.

“We have both girls and boys in schools we are supporting and we are encouraging girls to do more and right now in Liberia we have doing well in the lesson as compare to the boys and this is what we want to see happening in Liberia,” she noted.

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