-Focusing on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights
The Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD) in collaboration with RFSU is conducting a three day intensive training on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations on Liberia with focus on sexual and reproductive health rights.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists.
The three days training funded by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) seeks to increase respect for and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the UPR which centers around fundamental right for all women and girls to have the right to decide over their own body.
RFSU is a Swedish State Agency committed to the promotion of Sexual and Reproductive health rights in Sweden and abroad.
LICHRD is a member of regional and international networks. It is a member of the West African Human Rights Defenders' Networks and member of the Pan African Human Rights Networks.
Speaking at the opening of the training, the National Coordinator of Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL),Sam Nimely, a member of the coalition said it is good for CSO actors to work together in reporting on some of the human rights issues in the country.
Mr. Nimely reminded the participants that the UPR is a unique document because it incorporates all teaty bodies. He said "We believe that if the UPR recommendations are fully implemented, all other treaties will be implemented. Now, with RSFU support, we will address sexual and reproductive health rights. We need to be interactive and understand the Liberia recommendations."
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), Rev. Bartholemeu Colley stressed the need for civil society actors and the INCHR to work together at all times.
Rev. Colley said the INCHR role is critical and indispensable and continue to act on human rights issues, best practices and advise the government on human rights issues in the country at all times.
"We advise the government on recommendations and implementation and we have obligations to raise awareness on national issues. So, we thank the RSFU for the support," Rev. Colley said.
For his part, the Director of Human Rights Division at the Ministry of Justice, Katuka Devine Togba said the training of human rights defenders is in fulfillment of their dream and revealed that the Liberian Government through his division has drafted the shadow report on the UPR recommendations.
He said the report is important to all Liberians and called on RAL and partner to ensure the shadow report to be done by civil society organizations is inclusive.
Mr. Togba highlighted the issues of torture, Female Genital Mutilation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and implementation among others.
"We always welcome these initiatives. It's not good to base report on mere thoughts or perceptions. Do follow up and back it. We are all affected collectively. We have drafted our UPR recommendations report and we looking forward to it," Director Togba said.
For her part, the Program Assistant at UNFPA, Madam Quenuah R. Kuoh thanked the organizations for the training. She said as agency that believes in sexual reproductve health rights, they are ensuring that women and girls' rights are protected at all times.
At the same time, Mie Radeka Romee, International Program Manager of RFSU said prior to the training, they had meeting with csos specifically on the UPR recommendations looking at Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.
"We will work with actors and we need to work together. We need to see the need to collaborate and bridge the gaps in different issues on women rights, sexual issues. We need to have a frank discussion on sexual and reproductive health rights," Madam Romee said.
Making additional remarks, the Legal Advisor of RFSU, Milson De Los Reyes thanked officials of the Liberian Government that spoke at the occasion for the efforts so far. He also expressed happiness for Liberian organizations working toward improving sexual and reproductive health rights.
He told the participants that the UPR is a collective efforts for reliable information and there is a need for public-private partnership on the issues of human rights issues looking at the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls.
"We are working toward using the UPR as a platform and priority areas. Make use of legal process. All efforts will be more than helpful for us to take," Reyes added.
The training is taking place at a local hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia