Kebbeh Monger, president of the Rural Women Association, on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, called for partnership between the traditional leaders and stakeholders to end female genital mutilation (FGM) across Liberia.
FGM is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all external female genitalia, a practice observed throughout Liberia and other parts of the world.
Madam Monger made the statement at a program organized by the "WeAreUnprotected Women Human Rights Group," held at a resort in Monrovia.
She emphasized the need for collective efforts to end the FGM practice in the country.
The program, under the "Strengthening Gender-based Violence Protection Framework," brought together officials from the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, representatives of UN Women, Montserrado County Health Officer, head of the Women and Children Protection Unit of the Liberia National Police, and officials of Access to Justice for Survivors of SGBV.
Madam Monger then called for working with the traditional leaders to create awareness about the effects and danger of practicing FGM, and benefits when abolished in the country.
"If the parents and traditional leaders understand the implications of practicing FGM, including the health issues involved, they will not allow their children to undergo the practice. We must urge Liberians and stakeholders to be careful in handling the issue of FGM," Madam Monger said.
According to her, the situation was addressed in Kenya through the empowerment of zoes and traditional leaders, therefore, Madam Monger wants the Liberian government use the Kenyan experience as a case study to address those suspected of being the masterminds of the practice.
"Our people have used this practice over the years, and must not be taken from them with force, but to work with traditional leaders to end FGM and make Liberia FGM-free society," Madam Monger said.
Facia Harris, a representative of "WeAreUnprotected," called on participants to push for the end of sexual and gender-based violence in various communities and homes.
"We need to work to ensure that our society is free and our women and girls are protected from all forms of violence. We all need to have justice to live in peace," Madam Harris said.
Sussie Telleh, head of Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police, said the establishment of the women and children protection by the government indicates willingness to fight SGBV issues in the country.
Mrs. Telleh said the establishment of the one-stop center by the government, which brings all of the actors, including the police and psychosocial team, continues to work in documenting report of SGBV issues and prosecuting perpetrators.
She said despite these provisions by the government, the department continues to be overwhelmed with challenges, including limited safe homes for children or victims, one vehicle to be used throughout the country, and lack of state-owned homes to protect the abused children.
"We are investigators and need to relocate these children that are abused. We don't need to send them back home, but in a safe place or home where they will be happy to share their story. The lack of safe homes is responsible for children not telling their stories, because the perpetrators lived with them in the same home or community. We only depend on safe homes from THINK and OSIWA," she said.
Pearl Atuhaire, program specialist of SGBV at the UN Women in Liberia, called for women's rights, which are also human rights, to be respected by all irrespective of their statuses.
She said about 2.5 million women around the world continue to be affected by discriminatory laws or lack of protection, but expressed hope that the situation would be addressed any time soon.