Monrovia- The role of Liberian women is huge in shaping the social, economic, and political landscape of the country.
But they are faced with a conflicted picture when it comes to gender-related issues. Rates of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), harmful practices (HPs), female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and teenage pregnancy are all high, while access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) is low.
The progress in peacebuilding and security over the last decades has not fully translated into actions to eliminate violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Recently-released data from the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index (SCORE) shows that gender is strongly associated with the socio-demographic risk index in Liberia.
Women are struggling with an existent huge gap in terms of literacy as it relates to some extent to the belief that education is more important for a boy than for a girl, an opinion shared by more than 12% of the population.
Liberia is a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that requests state parties to take a holistic approach to law reform that will ensure women’s de jure and de facto equality.
“It urges the State party to ensure that all discriminatory laws, including customary law, are amended, or repealed and brought into full compliance with the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendations as a matter of priority,”
“The Committee also requests State party to remove all impediments women may face in gaining access to justice, in particular those governed by customary law, and urges the State party to take appropriate measures to enhance women’s legal literacy and awareness of their rights, including their right to seek legal redress in court.”
In 2018 President George Weah named himself Feminist-In-Chief, reaffirming his unwavering commitment to the pursuit of the feministic ideals that guarantee the rights and wellbeing of women.
In the 2018 16 days of Activism, President Weah again called for a Rigorous Fight against SGBV.
Two times in 2019, President Weah reiterated his resolve and the commitment of his administration to uncompromisingly fight sexual gender-based violence and support individuals and organizations advancing the cause of women.
When the President met Feminist Advocates, he again reaffirmed his government Commitment to SGBV Fight.
In September 2020, it was the fourth time in the year; Weah committed his government to tackle the GBV issue.
He launched the Government’s anti-abuse roadmap in September, and acknowledged the “alarming increase in rape and sexual and gender-based violence in recent times, especially during a time when we are at war with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic”.
The declaration followed a hike in sexual violence during Covid-19 -as Weah suggested – has played its part.
The lockdown, ordered in March to control its spread, closed schools and kept people at home. As in the rest of the world, those measures heightened the risk of sexual abuse, especially for young girls.
The Ministry of Gender and Children Social protection April- September 2020 data shows 998 GBV cases were reported.
Of the total cases recorded, rape accounts for 693 or 138%. Physical assault/domestic violence 27.9%, Sexual assault accounted for 14.4%, while Denial of resources accounted for 14%.
Moima Yapazuo– a mother of three has attempted committing suicide because the doctor diagnosed that five of her nerves are not functioning.
For over two months, the Liberia National Police have dashed the hopes of the family according to Nana Michael, brother of Moima.
He said the family is currently struggling with the well-being of Moima because she cannot remember anything including the faces of her children.
“I’m tired of checking with the Police now. As of now, no updates, no lead, no information to either state that the culprit is in this country or has travelled to Ghana or somewhere else. I’ve been trying all I can, but no update from them and I can say they have dashed our hopes.
He continues, “Right now, I’m struggling with how to raise funds to help my sister go abroad for advanced treatment. With gradual improvement, her eye is the biggest challenge.
“She’s threatening to commit suicide if her eye cannot open soon. It’s so challenging for us.
Grace Perry 21-year-old pregnant woman who was allegedly, mercilessly flogged by officers of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) in Margibi County Weah’s ‘stay home’ State of Emergency is still living with the agony.
The suspect is yet to be arrested or invited for questioning by the LDEA.
The Odell Sherman case is unresolved since the autopsy report requested further investigation.
To date, there has been no pronouncement from the government for further investigation on the death of Odell, a 21-year old student who was found on a tile floor of an unfinished building in the home of Methodist Rev. Emmanuel Giddings.
Jewel Howard Taylor Rift– December special senatorial election saw a rift between the feminist-in-chief and the first female vice president when the pair reportedly supported different candidates.
Of recent, the vice president posted on her Instagram, “The most powerful leaders in the world operate in UNITY, not ethnicity and religion…”
Since the December elections, Botoe Kanneh, Gbarpolu and Edith Gongloe Weh, Nimba have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court after their different requests at the National Elections were denied.
Botoe contested like Edith and if the high court ruled in their favour, women representation in the senate sum up to three.
The Gbarpolu senatorial election started very dramatically on December 8, 2020, with the seizing of the ballot boxes at some polling centers in Nomordatonau Town by the youth and elders of the town on suspicion that Sierra Leoneans had been trucked into the county to vote.
Despite the irregularities that characterized the December 8 polls, Ms. Kanneh led with 4,767 votes, while her counter from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, a sitting lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Rep. Alfred Koiwood, had 4,281 votes from 139 polling places out of 144, according to data from the National Election Commission.
But the National Elections Commission ordered a re-run of the election in areas that were affected by violence during the December 8 polls.
Rep. Kaiwood had, however, petitioned the Supreme Court to order the NEC to halt the rerun until electoral fraud and election violence are investigated by the NEC.
But Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh ordered the rerun which the electoral house slated for January 7. In that rerun, Rep. Koiwood topped the votes from those polling centers with 217 while Kanneh got 188.
Her overall number of votes still kept her in a comfortable lead and she was just an inch of being named the next Senator of Gbarpolu County until that was stalled with another legal wrangling from the CDC camp.
Koiwood insists that the NEC must investigate the electoral violence that marred the elections in Gbarpolu but Ms. Kanneh’s lawyers argued that it was not in the purview of the NEC to investigate electoral violence, rather the Liberia National Police, hence, there was no need stalling the process to conduct a function that is not constitutionally supported.
But the Board of Commissioners were divided over a decision with three of them arguing that agreeing to investigate the Gbarpolu election violence would be usurping the function of the Liberia National Police (LNP). However, the remaining four comprising the majority on the Board insist that the Hearing Officer must investigate the violence before deciding on the winner of the election.
For Mrs. Gongloe-Weh, she was denied a rerun and a recount of ballots in Electoral Districts #7, 4 and 5, and rerun election in Electoral Districts #1, and #2, in Nimba County.
Gongloe-Weh in her complaints to NEC, through its Upper Nimba County Magistrate, Blehdoh Flomo, and the Board of Commissioners pointed out concerns that there was an exchange of the complainant’s vote count of 137 with 7 votes of candidates Garrison Yealue in the Airfield Zone 2, polling place 2, Sanniquellie City, and Electoral District #2 by the data entry personnel.
The lawyers strongly want a re-run as well in Electoral District #2, polling places number 33052 in the Gbayee Public School, and Electoral District #2, polling place #33100 at Tiara Public School.
Her lawyers further alleged that the data entry clerk refused to allow her poll watchers to obtain a copy of the data entered or to simply display copies for verification which clearly indicated a calculated plan to commit fraud and deny her the votes cast in her favour by the people.
But the Hearing Officer denied and dismissed the complaint due to “lack of substantial evidence” against Nimba County between her and her arrival senator-elect Jeremiah Koung.
Florence Massaquoi- 46-year old woman body was discovered this month in the 72nd Community early Monday.
Police through its Spokesman Moses Carter said there has been an investigation. The deceased, was a resident of Rock Community in Paynesville. He said based on an agreement between the family and the police, the body has been deposited at the Capehart Funeral Home in Caldwell where an autopsy is expected to be conducted.
He has boosted of appointing many women in his cabinets including the first female Deputy Chief of staff of Armed Forces of Liberia. He classified those actions as manifestations of his desire and advocacy for gender equality and of increasing women’s participation in governance in the country.
There are a total of four Women appointed as ministers proper out of 19 Ministerial positions that amount to 21.5 percent.
It is unclear when these unresolved issues will be addressed by Weah’s Administration despite his pledge to tackling GBV.