As part of its contribution in addressing the growing human rights concerns in Liberia, the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) on Saturday, February 2, 2013 officially launched a project titled: " Enhancing Access to Justice and Human Rights Promotion in Lofa and Bong Counties".
The project, which was launched in Voinjama City, Lofa County, is aimed at ensuring that 20% of women, youth, children, inmates and grass root advocates in Bong and Lofa counties have skills to access justice, with the capacity to advocate for their rights, and engage the justice and security sector as a means of promoting the protection of fundamental rights and citizenship by 2014.
Program marking the official launch of the project was well attended by array of dignitaries from the various sector of the County including the justice and security sector, the NGO community, the County Authority, Local Community Residents and representative from OSIWA- Liberia Office.
The project is sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). On behalf of the FIND, Mrs. Beatrice K. Kanneh, Field Supervisor of FIND, Lofa County welcomed the invites and thanked them for responding to the organization call which was demonstrated by their high turnout. In presenting an overview of the project, Mr. Roosevelt Woods, the Executive Director of FIND, explained that the Foundation for International Dignity is a pro-democracy and human rights organization which was founded since 2003 in Sierra Leone. He further explained that FIND was established to respond to human rights concerns in the Mano River region .
Stated Mr. Woods: "The focus of FIND was to work in three countries that make up the Mano River Union, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Having worked in Sierra Leone in 2003, FIND moved over to Liberia and then in 2004-2005, we opened an office in Guinea."
Mr. Woods recalled that since 2005 FIND has been working in Bong and Lofa Counties, including other areas like the South- Eastern Region of Liberia. OSIWA, according to the rights activist, has been very instrumental in providing support to the organization's initiatives since its formation in 2002.
The FIND's boss furthered: " Can you imagine since 2002 to present, OSIWA has been providing significant support for all of our initiatives. This time around we have found ourselves launching this unique project which has to do with enhancing access to justice and human right promotion in Bong and Lofa counties."
He recounted that in 2012 FIND engaged OSIWA through the submission of a proposal to deal with the overwhelming challenges of access to justice and human right promotion in Lofa and Bong Counties.
Fortunately, he said the proposal was accepted and a grant in the tone of US$76,000 was awarded to FIND.
Mr. Woods acknowledged that the problem of access to justice and human rights issues cannot be addressed over a period of one year, but his organization with the help of its donors will try as much as possible to deal with it concisely.
Giving more details on the launched project, Mr. Woods disclosed that the project will include series of activities such as the organization of Community Policing Forums which is expected to bring together the police and other justice and security actors along with community residents who will interact and share experiences.Other activities, according to the FIND Executive, will include the setting up of Community Action Committees to monitor, document and report human rights abuses, the distribution of human rights tracks, the production and airing of radio programs, theatre performances amongst others.
Under the project, the FIND Director among other things added that his organization will produce and release a human rights situation report on the two counties in a period of six months. Also speaking at the program, Madam Massah Crayton, the Action Country Director of OSIWA, provided an overview of OSIWA, its founder and contributions to Liberia Civil Society Organizations and FIND in particular.
She mentioned that OSIWA was founded by an American philanthropist, Mr. George Solo. According to Madam Crayton, O " Our Mission at OSIWA is to create an Open Society in West Africa and the question is what do we call open Society? An Open Society is a Society where everyone who is part of that Society enjoys all the benefits, rights, and privileges of that Society meaning as a Liberian you are supposed to enjoy every single thing that relates to being a Liberian," Madam Crayton explained.
She further said that the reason why Bong and Lafa Counties were selected was because of the high incident and abuse of human rights coupled with the lack of access to justice which accordingly is causing the over crowdedness of prison facilities in the two counties. Madam Crayton then used the platform to caution FIND to produce tangible results from the intervention, which in her view, will pave a way forward for more support from OSIWA.
For his part, the Superintendent of Lofa County, Mr. George Dunor, who officially launched the project, began his remarks by recognizing the platform guests, the Chief Education Officer (CEO) of Lofa county as well as other government officials who graced the occasion. Mr. Dunor thanked OSIWA for conferring on him the authority to official launched the project which was earmarked to be carried out by OSIWA ,adding that government cherished the partnership with Civil Society Organizations and international donors in addressing the pressing issues of access to justice and human rights in the Country.
"It is actually not possible for government to be effective in all areas, this is why we collaborate with foreign partners. Government over the years have tried it best to make sure that the citizen of this county specifically people of Lofa County have access to justice. This is the reason why we have journalist just right on my right hand and on my left is another one sitting in the Conner. People who rights are denied have the opportunity to explain their cases to the Journalists. This is an indication that freedom of expression has never been restricted," said the Lofa County Superintendent.
Following his brief remarks, the superintendent then used the occasion to officially launched the Project which was applauded by all present at the ceremony. The OSIWA enhancing access to justice and human rights promotion project was officially approved in November of 2012. The project will run for a period of one year beginning December through November, 2013 with activities being carried out in Lofa and Bong Counties.
The official launching of the project paves the way for the commencement of major activities of the project which started in early January of 2013.