Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor says Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is one of the most pervasive and devastating human rights violations in the world today.
VP Taylor noted that Liberia must muster the political will to tackle this issue in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal #5, which outlines achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
“LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND IS THE CALL TO DUTY,” she added.
The Liberian Vice President was speaking through a proxy, Anthony Kesselly at the start of a two-day national colloquium on SGBV Prevention and Response led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Spotlight Initiative Funded by the European Union through the United Nations.
“We cannot achieve equality without eliminating these acts of violence against women and girls. Their human rights must be protected,” Howard-Taylor stressed.
She, however, acknowledged that there has been some progress made in the fight, but not fast enough in bringing perpetrators to justice and responding to the needs of the victims/survivors.
“Ending rape and other harmful practices against women and girls, prosecuting these crimes, and providing the required level of support for the survivors requires each of us in this room to stand up, fight and take action,” VP Taylor intimated.
At the same time, UNDP Resident Representative Pa lamin Beyai Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai, underscored that gender equality and women’s empowerment are significant to the UNDP and the United Nations as a body in its strategy, to supporting the promotion of women’s equal participation in the political process, peace and security issues that create access to improved livelihoods and protection of their lives.
Dr. Beyai acknowledged that some progress is being made, but emphasized that there was an urgent need to holistically tackle the challenges of SGBV which include limited coordination in interventions; complicated legal processes; access to medical services and psycho-social support; stigmatization; insufficient safe havens for survivors; inadequate local response services and support networks, among others
“Ensuring support for victims is important. We therefore, hope that, at the end of these two days, we will come up with innovative and practical strategies toward combating the problem in Liberia”.
The UNDP Resident Representative prayed that the meeting will also draw on the best practices and lessons on prosecution and prevention of SGBV crimes, harmful practices, and violations of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHRs).
The Head of Cooperation at the European Union Theodorus Kaspers highlighted the importance of strengthening the prosecution and justice system of Sexual and Gender Based Violence crimes.
"Improving the criminal justice chain is for the benefit of all, as there can be no security for the Liberian people without justice,"Kaspers intonated.
The Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Ingrid Wretervist mentioned that life threatening effects of SGBV undermine peace efforts and reconciliation.
Wretervist noted that timely and necessary actions are needed to avert the culture of violence that hampers the full potential of women in the Liberian Society.
Remarks also came from the Ministries of Gender and Justice, the Human Rights Commission and the Civil Society Organization.
Held under the theme “Promoting Coordination to enhance prosecution of SGBV crimes, Harmful Practices and Promoting Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights”, the Colloquium brought together over 250 people from all sectors of the country including youth, the disable community, Traditional Council among others.
It provides a space for information sharing of best practices and lessons learnt on prosecution of SGBV Crimes, harmful practices and access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for women and girls, from Experts in the field.
EU/UN Spotlight Initiative is a multi-national partnership designed to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
It also endeavors to increase access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services and is being implemented in the five most-affected counties-Lofa, Nimba, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh and Montserrado.,
Under the Spotlight Initiative, UNDP is entrusted to ensure the strengthening of institutions and the delivery of quality and essential services in the prevention and the responses to SGBV and harmful practices at the national, sub-national and community levels.