Minister Tarr

Monrovia – The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has revealed that 359 rape cases were reported form January to June 2021. Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr during the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) regular press briefing on September 23, 2021 in Monrovia reported that the total number of Rape and Gender-Based Violence Statistics as Reported from January to June of this year stands at 526 SGBV cases, of which 359 are rape cases.

According to the report, Montserrado recorded the highest number of 255 rape cases, followed by Margibi with 30, Grand Gedeh with 22 cases, Bomi with 17 cases and Nimba with 11 cases. Others are Bong with 8 cases, Grand Bassa and Lofa reported 4 each, while Grand Kru and River Cess reported 3 each and Sinoe with 2 cases. The Minister said Maryland and River Gee did not report a single case during the period under review.       

The Gender Minister also reported the validation and endorsement of a two years’ Action Plan to tackle SGBV in Liberia. “I am pleased to announce that with support from UN Women-Liberia and the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, we have validated and endorsed a Two-Year Strategic Work Plan”.

The Minister said the strategic plan redesigned and realigned the Ministry’s activities, programs with the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). She said the Plan effectively and sufficiently directs, manages and controls the activities of the Ministry in conformity with the PAPD.

“The Strategic Plan is aimed at amongst others: Strengthening awareness for communities and stakeholders to address issues affecting women, girls, children and vulnerable people; Promoting policy advocacy on issues of gender, children and social protection and; Focusing on the reduction of violence against women, girls and other marginalized groups as well as empowering women, girls, and vulnerable people so that they are self-sufficient to stand against potential violations of their rights”, she said.

Still on policy, “I am pleased to announce that with support from One UN System, the European Union, the African Development Bank through UN Women -we have developed the Country’s Gender Equality Profile”.

The youthful Minister said Gender Equality Profile is a document with a holistic analysis of gender issues that can be used to help improve policies, programs and interventions geared towards achieving gender equality. It identifies progress, gaps, challenges and needed interventions and highlights the different conditions, needs, level of participation in decision making, access and control of resources between women and men, girls and boys. The Gender Equality Profile will also facilitate the development of gender-responsive country strategies, programs and projects, and to contribute to dialogue.

Minister Tarr also informed that the Mock Parliament Sessions were held across the Country. She said with support from UN Women-Liberia, her Ministry conducted a month long (August) Mock Parliament Sessions in Bassa, Margibi, Bomi, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties. 

These sessions were conducted in alignment with promoting and strengthening collaboration mechanisms and advocating for an increase in women’s political participation through inclusion of the enforceable 30 percent gender quota provision in the Liberia election law. 

Stakeholders in attendance were drawn from all (Fifteen)15 counties: County Leaders, Academics, Parliamentarians, Political Party Leaders, Representatives of Civil Society Organizations, Members of the Judiciary, the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), amongst others

As a country, it was imperative to have held said sessions – given the fact that Liberia has committed to take action to increase women’s political participation and representation by signing and ratifying a number of international and regional human rights instruments, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAW); the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR); the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (ACHPR-PW); the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG); the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (PDGG), among others.

Currently, the legal framework governing elections, including laws on elections and on political parties, the independent electoral commission statutes and laws are still not gender sensitive. Still, efforts to amend the elections law have not yet been successful despite five (5) attempts since 2005. The latest attempt is through the Electoral Law Reform that is ongoing. In 2014, the Legislature amended Section 4.5 of the New Elections Law (NEL) stipulating that:

“A political party or coalition in its submission to the Commission, of its list of candidates for an election should endeavor to ensure that the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30% of its members from each gender.

“We believe, the phrase “should endeavor to ensure” has proven ambiguous and open to numerous interpretations as to whether Section 4.5 requires political parties to present a candidate list that has no less than 30 percent women or requires them to earnestly attempt to do so, Minister Tarr said. 

Social Cash Transfer

Social Cash Transfer Program is aimed to protect children and empower women as it provides subsistence to the entire household, thereby strengthening the ability of the household to provide for the basics and respond better to shocks. 

The Gender Minister said they have completed the 5th and 6th quarter payments to 3,307 beneficiaries in Maryland and Grand Kru Counties. 

Additional beneficiaries in Bomi, Maryland and River Gee are expected to be included in mid-2022, she said

The Ministry has rolled out Accompanying Measures in Maryland and Grand Kru Counties where women are taught to make home gardens and other activities to keep the home going.

Over 15 thousand households in urban Montserrado have received two transfers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic 

“We have established a fully functional Management Information System (MIS) at the Ministry, which contains the database that is expected to hosts thousands of data from around the country, basically on social protection and other needs.

We urge our colleagues from other government institutions to begin requesting on the use of our data,” Minister Tarr said. 

To popularize the system, the project team is organizing events beginning October 8 this year, to further explain the importance of the MIS. The media is as well encouraged to begin developing interest in how these data will trigger to real time interventions by government and partners.

Status of the Government of Liberia & Partners Anti-SGBV Roadmap 2020-2022

In July of this year when, the Gender Minister said she was on the same stage reminding Liberians that an Anti-Sexual and Gender-Based Violence National Conference was held last September, which led to the validation of the Roadmap and subsequent endorsement by His Excellency, the President and the Cabinet; Issuance of a Proclamation by His Excellency, the President, declaring rape a national emergency with initial measures that included the appointment of a Special Prosecutor for rape; the setting up of a National Sex Offender Registry; the establishment of a National Security Taskforce on SGBV, and the allotment of an initial amount of US$2 Million to beef up the fight against rape and SGBV in the country. 

As of today’s date, she said the government has disbursed US$1 million for the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (ITSGBV) through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection 

The 1 million US Dollars is inclusive of the DNA machine and it’s attending equipment plus the US$500,000 that we are currently disbursing.

She reported that members of the ITSGBV have made funding request. The disbursement of the funds to the ITSGBV is based on the rolling out of the action areas as contained in the Roadmap. Specifically, the government approach towards ending all forms of SGBV has taken a new trend to holistically address the root-causes – addressing social norms, amplifying prevention measures and adequately respond to violence against women and girls.

Minister Tarr said, her health practitioners confirmed that the DNA machine procured by the government of Liberia is expected to be functional within six weeks. “Engagement with the Law Reform Commission for the revision of SGBV-related laws continues;

 Relaunch of the HeForShe campaign” she informed. 

the Gender Minister reported that continuous engagement with traditional leaders, as well as monitoring visits, relating to ending HTPs, including FGM; Continuous awareness raising in communities nationwide by all actors, including the Ministry; Capacity building and Livelihood programs conducted for 180 at-risk adolescent girls in 5 counties, Nimba, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Grand Cape Mount and Montserrado Counties. Startup kits were provided for all beneficiaries.

The Gender Minister informed that with support from the ITSGBV members, and other stakeholders including international and national actors (CSOs inclusive), the Ministry is proactively promoting effective leadership to include planning, implementation and monitoring of all interventions across all levels.

The Ministry’s Role In The Fight Against COVID-19 

The Minister reporting on her Ministry role said, “As it relates to our role as lead on the Women, Girls and Children Pillar. It is a Pillar set up under the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 (ECOC) to ensure that response mechanisms are synched and well coordinated, and that all relevant actors are identified to form part of the response process targeting women, girls and children.

Capacity Strengthening – In July of 2021, the Ministry trained twenty (20) Social Workers and Mental Health Clinicians from Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties to respond effectively to the mental health and psychosocial needs of individuals, families and communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With UNFPA Support to the Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Services Pillar- the total of 94 participants comprising of County Coordinators, Mental Health Clinicians, Psychosocial Workers and Social Workers from Grand Bassa, Nimba, Lofa , Grand Kru, Maryland, Rivergee,  Grand Gedeh, Rivercess, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu, Margibi counties were trained by the Ministry on the 2019 Revised Psychosocial Manual. 

Participants were taught how to contribute to the psychosocial development of persons at risk (survivors of various forms of abuse, trauma, and torture, as well as SGBV) 

To ensure that psychosocial practitioners are well-trained and have the requisite skills and knowledge to provide effective psychosocial interventions, comprising of rehabilitation support services and empowerment for persons with diverse needs and 

To respond to the critical needs of vulnerable people and the citizenry at large”.

Transit Homes

 As a major partner to the Liberian Government Liberia Children’s Village is providing temporary care, educational, medical and psychosocial support services to 35 children (13 girls, 22 boys) at Liberia Children’s Village. Children placed in care are abandoned, missing and also children with disabilities, etc., she said.

Julue-ta interim Care Center – The home is providing temporary care, medical and psychosocial support to 28 children (19 girls, 9 boys). 

Other Activities

We provided psychosocial support to Eight (8) affected families from WAEC comprising of 31(boys-10, girls -21) children due to Niko Ivanka vessel disaster.

Case management is ongoing with old folks and children with disabilities in institutional care.

“With support from UNICEF in addressing the Ivorian Refugees Response – we trained and deployed Social Workers in 4 (four) counties (Nimba, Maryland, Grand Gedeh and River Gee) to implement emergency child protection programs, including case management, Trainers of Trainers and logistical support”, she concluded.

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