Monrovia — Participants of the 'Raising Community Voices' Project have expressed gratitude towards Plan International and its collaborators, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Irish Aid, for the significant impact of the initiative in their respective communities.
During the ceremony marking the project's conclusion in Paynesville, both men and women Participants attested to the positive changes brought about by the project, citing improvements in livelihoods and increased awareness to combat gender-based violence (GBV) in their communities.
Gifty Walker, a beneficiary from Nimba County, shared her experience: "Before then, we, the women, were treated badly by the men. We didn't know our rights, anything the men said was final."
She continued: "In the home, they used to handle the money. Though we will work hard on the sugarcane farms to bring in the money, they decided how to use the money. We never used to take part in any decision-making activities, but through this project we are making progress. Through this training, we were able to form a saving group of 100 people. And things are now improving for us in our community."
The 'Raising Community Voices (RCV)' project aimed to bolster local capacity, including civil society organizations (CSOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs), to take the lead in GBV prevention and response activities across Montserrado, Lofa, and Nimba counties. Over the course of four years, the project focused on empowering CSOs and CBOs, providing basic GBV case management services, and offering psychosocial support to women and girls at risk of or experiencing GBV.
Aminata Jalloh, Team Lead of Girl Shine Network-Liberia, emphasized the importance of creating safe spaces for girls to thrive. "Your support has enabled us to create environments where girls can learn and realize their full potential," Jalloh said.
The project also engaged men and boys in discussions aimed at promoting gender transformation and fostering accountability towards women and girls. Participants like Henry Z. Wolobah of Zorzor, Lofa County shared personal transformations, highlighting a shift towards respect and advocacy for gender equality and being accountable to women and girls through their attitudes and behaviors.
"I want to say thanks to SOAP [Servants of All Prayers Assembly] and Plan International Liberia for the transformation in my life now. I was a boy who was in the habit of disrespecting women and girls in my community. I was very rude until I came across this program Engaging Men and boys through accountable practice," recounted Wolobah.
He added: "I was very disrespectful in my community. When girls come around me I feel bad. I bullied them on campus until this E-Map project came to my community. I heard the facilitator and he was talking about behavioral change, and urging participants to respect women and girls in the community and in the school. It caught my attention, and I attended. When I went home, I thought about it and since then I have changed my behavior. Through the 27 weeks, I began to change and respect women and girls. I began to advocate for women and girls in my school."
Funded by the Government of Ireland through Irish Aid, the RCV program underwent a transition from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to Plan Liberia International. Plan subsequently enlisted the support of four local NGOs to continue implementation.
They include the Coalition of Women Against Gender Based Violence in Liberia (COWAGIL), implementing in Montserrado, Rural Women and Girls Promoters for Sustainable Development (RWGP) in Nimba, Women Solidarity Incorporated (WOSI) based in Lofa and Servants of All Prayers Assembly (SOAP).
Anita Krubo Tokpa Monger, Project Manager of RCV, reported that the program went beyond its target and benefited over 2,087 women and girls who access referral services, 1,020 girls graduated from the Girl Shine sessions, 1,630 women benefited from a psychosocial support training that have added value to their lives, 76 VSLA groups with 1,869 VSLA members are having control over their resources and reducing Gender based violence in their lives. She further noted that 3,740 men, women and boys benefited from the Engaging Men through Accountable Practice intervention making a tangible impact on their lives.
The Raising Community Voices closure event drew stakeholders including INGOs, local NGOs, representatives from the Liberian government, and the Liberian National Police.
Meilakeh Y.S. Menworleh, Executive Director of RWGP, expressed gratitude for the transformations brought about by the project and appealed for continued support to expand its reach across Liberia.
Rev. Gervais G. Dro, Project Manager was also full of praise for Plan International Liberia and Irish Aid. He called on participants to continue putting into practice what they have learned.
Assistant Commission of Police Susie T. Telleh who heads the Women and Children Section of the LNP extolled Plan International and Irish Aid for the project that "have impacted so many lives" and pledge the LNP's cooperation in combating sexual and gender-based violence in the community.