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.
Guest blog by Stephen B. Lavalah
Once again another International Women’s Day has come and gone, but the struggles, hardships and difficulties yet persist. Even though women have got fundamental human rights like their male counterparts, however, women and girls are every so often in many societies excluded from political decision making, policy formulation and essential public activities. Besides, this segment of the population in most countries, all too often are denied access to land ownership, right to acquire quality education and deprived of getting equal pay for equal work. Women and girls are still underrated and belittled usually stereotype of being weak and empty vessels. Moreover, many women and girls still live in societies where gender-based violence, forced teenage marriage, as well as sexual exploitation and abuse continue to increase on a daily basis.
More to the point, gender gap at all levels in society is generally very high as indicated in the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report released on October 23rd by the World Economic Forum. It is without doubt that in most countries, women and girls even at this time lack access to justice, financial services, employment opportunities, water supply, farmland and effective, efficient and affordable health care delivery services. Moreover, for far too long harmful traditional, cultural and religious practices further worsen the condition of females and subject them to all sorts of unwholesome way of life that contravene their dignity and worth as human beings. These and many more factors affecting women and girls put them in disadvantage situation to have the chance to achieve their full potential and measure of happiness.
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.
Colette Wamikila from Life & Peace Institute moderating a session. In the background Rachel Mitima Nnabuke. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Katarina Carlberg
Jambo Sana from Bukavu, where Kvinna till Kvinna is in the middle of a workshop together with Life & Peace Institute and local partner organizations. The workshop takes place in a center run by Jesuit tout court, located in a calm area on the outskirts of the city, with a beautiful garden and a view of Lake Kivu. Certainly the right kind of environment to allow the participants peace and quiet to be able to concentrate on the topic of the workshop: conflict transformation and how to better include women in those processes.
– Women are often consulted informally on issues of importance in the community, but then, they are excluded from the formal forums for discussion and decision making, says Gégé Katana, Coordinator of the local women’s organization Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains (SOFAD). It is time for women to take place also in these forums, to be allowed to transmit their experience and knowledge in the open!
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.
Kvinna till kvinnas Ylwa Renström inför en späckad dag i till synes fridfull Bukavu
Det är den vackraste av joggingrundor. Kivusjön inhöljd i morgondimma mot en fond av Syd-Kivus klorofyllmättade bergsmassiv. Från vattnet nedanför höjden vi springer på hörs sång från fiskebåtarna. Den stiger och sjunker, det är som en kör sjungandes i kanon.
Vägen är hård av trampad, röd jord. Vi kryssar mellan stora hål fyllda av vatten efter nattens regn. Om bara en liten stund, när solen stigit, kommer hålen snabbt tömmas av värmen och bli torra igen.
Bukavu vaknar. Möter några få skolbarn i sina vitblå uniformer som tidigt är på väg mot skolan. Ett fåtal män släntrar fram och ropar skrattandes ”Courage!” (heja!) efter oss där vi flåsar fram. Några FN-jeepar skramlar förbi. Och kvinnor med sina eviga bördor på rygg och huvud rör sig med böjda ryggar fram längs vägkanten.
Staden ses som förhållandevis säker just nu, i detta så hårt konfliktdrabbade område. Jag och reskompisen och kollegan Ylwa kan ju till och med ta en joggingtur, så länge vi är två. Men lugnet är bedrägligt, inte minst för befolkningen. För bara två veckor utsattes chefen för Panzisjukhuset här i stan, Denis Mukwege, för ett attentat som var nära att ta hans liv. Och längre söderut, från Uvira, hör vi otaliga berättelser om hur våldet trappas upp och slår mot civila, bland dem många fredsaktivister.