Inspector Muna Meah is a Commander in the Liberia National Police Force. For the past seven years, she has investigated cases of violence against women and children and supported survivors to access the help they need. She is the county coordinator for the Women and Children's Social Protection Centre in Sanniquille, north-central Liberia.
What kinds of cases do you work on?
I am in charge of cases pertaining to women and children in Nimba county. The most prevalent cases I handle here are rape, persistent non-support (failure to pay alimony) and domestic violence. Rape is the most commonly reported of these cases. It is a very difficult issue to work on, even for [those of] us with training and experience, because the impact of rape stays with the survivor for life. If a child is raped, they are provided counselling, medical and other support but they will never fully recover from the trauma and even physical damage. This is why I support the work of Spotlight Initiative to create awareness and share messages on the prevention of rape and the abuse of women and children. It is important that we work very hard to prevent [this violence] and for offenders to be punished.
What is the current situation of violence against women and children in the country?
After COVID-19 and Ebola we experienced very high cases of rape because perpetrators had the advantage when children were at home. Women and girls are very vulnerable populations... from time immemorial they have been vulnerable. It's about now that women are getting onboard and being heard.
The newly renovated and equipped Women and Children's Protection Centre at Sanniquille Police Station. Photo: Spotlight Initiative Liberia/Helen Mayelle
How has the Spotlight Initiative changed your work?
We were trained in different areas of handling sexual and gender-based violence and how to work with survivors of rape. Spotlight has a team that can come and monitor us, follow up on cases we have documented and the cases that are forwarded to court. They also collect data on cases.
Through Spotlight, we have seen more women and girls coming up to report cases by themselves. Previously, it would be through other community members who have an understanding of the law and justice processes, but with the awareness created on how to report cases [women and girls] are coming here openly.
Spotlight has also renovated our office building and supplied us with chairs, desks and computers for us to do our work. They gave us a motorcycle for us to follow up on cases from remote communities.
What are some ways you're raising awareness of sexual violence?
Spotlight provided placards with messages to 'stop rape' and others with 'rape is a crime'. Some placards tell people that there are people out there to help victims of rape, and tell people where to report cases of abuse. They also have messages for the offenders saying that 'if you commit this crime, you will be punished'. People read these placards and change their behaviour. Victims and reporters of cases now know that they are protected by the law if they report. They know that there are people to help them.
As told to Helen Mayelle. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.