Coordinated by the National Institute for Public Opinion in Liberia (NIPO) and sponsored by Oxfam and Impunity Watch, the month-long international sensitization and awareness campaign focuses on conducting house-to-house outreach and awareness against violence, educating women and girls about how they can participate in politics, and showing women how they can achieve social and economic growth.
“It is now widely recognized that violence against women, including harassment and harmful practices, are major barriers to fulfillment of human rights, and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustaining peace,” said Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia.
Focused in Liberia in November, 1,050 homes were covered in the campaign, which represented a total of 5,250 local residents. Perhaps the most notable part of the event, however, was NIPO leading a many civil society organizations toward the reformation of the women-centric platform, Amuyan, in Sinoe County. Translated, the platform’s name means “Let’s Move Ahead,” and is comprised of 20 local female organizations that include the districts of Greenville, Dugbeh River, Juarzon, and Kpayan. Amuyan advocates for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the platform develops programs and strategies aimed at fighting sexual and gender-based violence.
“Without tackling the issue of violence against women and girls, the world will never fulfill the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” El Hillo said.
UN Women Liberia Representative Marie Goreth Nizigama said that change can happen at the foundation, referring to how parents can play a major role in instilling values of equality but also preventing sexual and gender-based violence against their children not just in schools, but everywhere, which was also a large focus for 2017’s activism campaign.
“Parents are equally accountable when they leave their girl child vulnerable in homes, on the road to school and even having them fend on street corners for livelihood,” she said. “Accessing quality education is a passport to life’s achievements. It empowers girls and boys and promotes better health, development and opportunities.”
Campaigning for empowerment, nonviolence, and equality not only faces the problem of lacking balanced representation in private and public sectors, but of respect once women are in those roles.
In a 2016 report, Liberia ranked below average in women’s representation in parliament in Africa. It also found that in the private sector, over half of the women occupied staff roles rather than line roles where they have the opportunity to be promoted to CEO. It also found that in South Africa, women board members earned 17 percent less than their male counterparts.
What was more dismaying was that the report also found that even though some countries such as Rwanda and Senegal ranked above average in representation, they still faced the issue of a lack of strong influence.
“Do these increased strides represent a true rise in the power of women in national decision making?” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s president. “Is such progress fundamental and sustainable, or superficial and temporary?”
Liberia’s progress in development has slowed over the recent years, currently ranking 177 out of 188 in the 2016 Human Development Report. Despite the numbers, activism efforts haven’t been in vain. Liberia has had a female president, and though the number is small, more women are running for elections and taking charge.
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