Monrovia — Liberia's Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection Williametta Saydee Tarr has disclosed that Gender Based Violence (GBV) against women and girls remains one of the widespread human rights violations in Liberia and other countries around the world, with a call for inclusive gender-sensitive budgeting to address challenges and reduce the gap between women and men in terms of opportunities and empowerment in the post-conflict nation.
Minister Tarr stated that physical assaults, sexual violence, harassment, and trafficking of children, among others, have reached their full potential in society.
She said despite the alarming rate of GBV, it is the duty and collective responsibility of the government and other actors to combat those who perpetrate violence against women and girls and provide support to the victims and their respective families.
She made these comments she officially launch a new project under the captioned: "Promoting Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting as a tool for Electoral Accountability to Address Gender-Based Violence and Promote Women Empowerment" at a program held in Monrovia on Thursday, May 25. The project was launched by Integrity Watch Liberia with funding from UN Women.
Minister Tarr maintained that it is prudent for government and actors to collectively work towards preventing Gender Based Violence, instead of waiting for these acts to be committed before taking action.
"Gender-Based Violence and unresponsiveness hinder Liberia's development ability. It is one of the most widespread consistent human rights violations in our world today. We must place emphasis on preventing violence than responding."
She, however, underscored the need for authorities at various government ministries and agencies to prioritize gender-sensitive budgeting as part of efforts to bridge the empowerment gap between women and men in Liberian society.
She added that in order to achieve this, government and its partners must recognize and address gender equality and discrimination as one of the root causes of violence.
Minister Tarr stated that this would require supporting changes in attitudes and behaviors by making headways toward equal rights, opportunities, and equal participation, especially in decision-making.
This, she added, required serious data, finances, coordination, strategies, and commitment.
She stressed that the launch of the project was a clear demonstration of concerted efforts to empower women in Liberian society.
She expressed the hope that the initiative will bridge the gap between issues affecting women in society.
Minister Tarr disclosed that the ministry, under her watch, will continue to work towards the establishment of a national gender-responsive budgeting and planning policy.
"We are proud of the tremendous progress that we've made to ensure gender mainstreaming and social inclusion into sector plans, programs and policies. We were able to achieve this with support from the Millennium Account (MCA) and UN Women.
She said about 12 ministries, agencies, and commissions of the Liberian government are being set up.
She named them as the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Agriculture, Labor, Commerce and Industry, Mines and Energy, and Public Works.
Others are: Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Education, Health, Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), National Investment Commission (NIC), Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
According to her, some of these ministries and agencies have been able to institutionalize gender responsive processes.
"This initiative by Integrity Watch is already in line with the legal instrument of Liberia in terms of achieving gender equality. We look forward to working with you to achieve the goal of this project. It is my hope that we do this together."
Also speaking, Integrity Watch-Liberia Executive Director Harold Aidoo disclosed that for years now, Liberia, with support from international partners, has embarked on efforts to address issues surrounding gender equality and equity in the nation.
He said in a bid to meet the goal of bridging the gender gaps, the national budgeting process must be gender sensitive.
"If we are able to make our national budget gender sensitive for it to address the gender gaps that we have, whether we address the issues around gender based violence, the economy or health when it comes to gender or education-we cannot be able to achieve gender responsiveness in ways that address many of the gender gap issues around gender equality and gender equity. These goals will not be achieved if we are not able to influence the national budget."
"It is in this light that with funding from UN Women, we are happy to launch this project that leverages on the upcoming 2023 presidential and legislative so that we can have champions who will go at the Legislature and make sure that our national budget is gender sensitive so when we are passing and discussing the budget, they are able to make allocations that addresses issues around health and other issues confronting our society."
Aidoo stressed that Liberia will not be able to address many of the challenges confronting women and girls unless the national budget is influence to reflect gender sensitivity.
"We are here to launch this project and to hopefully work with the new legislators that will be elected in the ensuing October 10 elections so that they will be able to work with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to make sure that the 2024 budget will address many of the gender gaps that we have in our society."
He pointed out that the new project will also track and monitor the implementation of the national budget, looking at the gender dimension of the budget implementation and how it also impacts issues on gender equality, equity, health, education and other issues.
For her part, youthful Montserrado County district # 6 Representative aspirant Wokie Dolo underscored the significance for the empowerment of women, especially in the political decision making process of the country.
She said the involvement of more women in the political decision making process of Liberia will help break the stereotype and glass ceiling.
"Young women see other women to be role models in politics and therefore, they must be supported. Stereotype affects women in politics."
She observed that women can do more when they are given a space or platform to serve or accorded similar opportunities as compare to their male counterparts.
Madam Dolo noted that most often women are in a better position to understand and take actions against issues that affect them and girls in a nation and as such, they must be supported and empowered to realize their full potential.
She, however, vowed to be an advocate to raise and help address issues confronting women and girls in the Liberian society when elected at the National Legislature.