26 November 2002

Liberia: UNHCR, Partners Launch 16 Days of Activities -Against Gender-Based Violence

Monrovia — The Monrovia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other local and international NGOs yesterday launched a 16-day of activism on gender-based violence against women.

The activities to mark the beginning of activism against gender-based violence got under way yesterday at the VOA Refugee Camp in Brewerville, outside Monrovia. It brought together more than 200 refugees both man and women, as well as other war-affected persons from the Samukai Town, Zuanah Town, Banjor and VOA Refuges Camps.

The program is being held under the theme, "Improving Cultural Practices to Stop Violence Against Women." At yesterday's program, the refugees, along with staff of both local and international NGO's, marched and displayed posters and caps with anti-violence slogan such as, "stop violence against women, rape cases can be controlled, Women have the right to do what a man can do", among others.

According to the organizers, the activism against gender-based violence was initiated by women activists world wide some eleven years ago to highlight the violence that women face and create a solidarity movement that will protect women as well as survivors of violence and to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

Hence, UNHCR Monrovia and its implementing partners, the Medical Emergency Relief International (MERCI), Save the Children-UK, FEP, LUSH and other NGOs working in the various refugees camps have begun creating the awareness on the basis that violence is the root cause of forced population movement coupled with the creation of refugee situation the world over.

Delivering the keynote address yesterday, Cllr. Abla Williams, frowned on all forms of violence against women, noting that Liberians should improve on their culture as a way of saying no to violence against women, which she described as, "a bad culture that affects our human rights", and urged, "Do not be quiet break the silence."

Mrs. Williams said violence is continuing because, "many men believe that women, especially their wives and daughters can and should be subordinate to them they see women as their properties."

The female lawyer further frowned on what she termed the discrimination and violation of women's rights because of their gender. She cited sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, forced marriage among others as a violation of the rights of women.

For his part, UNHCR's Senior Protection Officer Lawrence Oba Mgbangson, told the audience to say no to violence and condemn legislation, customs, cultures that directly or indirectly support gender based violence. He said the 16 days of activism against gender based violence are the days set aside to reflect our customs and culture, whether the cultural and customary attitude of men toward women or women toward men are still necessary for our present generation and the generation to come.

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