Thomas Hessius Ekman, swedish polis working as UNPOL adviser on trafficking.
Human trafficking is not a topic that is well known in Liberia. Most persons, or even organizations that might get into contact with it, do not know what it is or what it means. However, one should not confuse the lack of knowledge of trafficking with a belief that it does not exist in Liberia, because it does. It was with excitement that we heard about the new (or rather resurrected) National Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force that has been formed to fight trafficking.
When explaining what trafficking is most Liberians identify the practice of taking children from rural villages to larger towns against promise of a better life, as trafficking. Some have heard of cases of small children being sold, or young boys being taken across the border to go to Quran schools. When we dig deeper we begin to see that yes, there is more going on in Liberia too. Women, and boys and girls are trafficked for different purposes and to different destinations. They are abused, mistreated, and the perpetrators have almost complete impunity as there is no precedent for prosecuting against human trafficking in Liberia.
Lena T.Cummings (Director) and Awanah Flee (Programme Officer), of Women in Peacebuilding Program, (WIPNET) of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) are currently participating at the 57th CSW in New York. Yesterday they held a presentation regarding one for their projects in Liberia, supported by Kvinna till Kvinna. With this year’s focus at CSW being violence against women WIPNET shared important knowledge of how to work with women and men at the grassroots level through awarenessraising , empowering women to speak out, and to enable behavioral change in women and men to end violence against women.
One of CLA’s messages; Papa & Mama Rape is not a family matter. Report it.
Liberia has since the end of the civil war in 2003 continued to experience high levels of violence against women and children. There is a lack of reliable numbers yet what is clear is that largest majority of victims of sexual violence are between 5-16 years old. Victims are stigmatized and few cases are reported to the authorities. The impunity perpetrators experience is pervasive yet there are those who tirelessly work for victim’s rights and to end violence against women and girls.
Center for Liberian Assistance (CLA) is one of the few safe-homes for girls in Monrovia. Not only do they provide shelter for girls in need they also provide a safe space where young girls from the Paynesville area receive information about their sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR). In a society where parents do not speak of sex with their children, few youth friendly spaces were SRHR can be discussed exist, and teen pregnancy stands at 38%, CLA provides an essential service for girls in Paynesville on the outskirts of Monrovia.