In reaffirming the commitment of the University of Liberia (UL) to support and mainstream gender issues, UL President Rev. Dr. Julius J.S. Nelson, Jr. has encouraged the newly launched Liberia Sexual Gender – Based Violence Awareness Movement (LIBSGBV) to maintain and build upon the current partnership between the two institutions. 

Speaking at the official launching ceremony of the LIBSGBV held on UL’s Capitol Hill Campus Friday, October 23, 2020, Dr. Nelson said the University of Liberia will continue to ensure that its Honors College for Interdisciplinary Studies highlights and drives gender issues.

At a special edition of UL’s forum for intellectual and cultural exchanges, Lux Talk, held on September 30, 2020, Dr. Nelson, on behalf of the university, made commitments in support of the Decade of Action on the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level during a discussion on the role of academia in actualizing the SDGs. 

Dr. Nelson said UL has already created new academic programs that include the Honors College of Research and Gender Studies and an entrepreneurship program.

Officially launching LIBSGBV, Mrs. Una Kumah Thompson, President of the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET,) said she was happy to hear Dr. Nelson say that gender is now being integrated and mainstreamed at the University of Liberia. 

Mrs. Thompson said UL’s mainstreaming of Gender is commendable because addressing SGBV issues requires knowledge and commitment to deliver, teach and change mind set. 

According to Madam Thompson, domestic violence leads to bodily harm and death, but rape is so violent, so traumatic and it causes so much trauma more than death itself, if one survives it. She explained that when there exists violence against women, particularly SGBV, the nation is not at peace, children will be wayward, there will be more deaths and shame. Trauma will then make more women stand in the back. “I am honored to have been asked to launch this organization. I am honored to have been given the platform to share my little voice with you that hopefully, you go out there and become not only champions, but to work along with the LIB SGBV Awareness organization,” she concluded.

Prof. T. Debey Sayndee, Country Director and Board Member, Liberia Sexual Gender – Based Violence Awareness Movement, said one of the motivations for founding the organization is to see victims of SGBV accompanied and supported to seek justice.

He recalled that in 2015, the organization embarked on a research titled “Gender – Based Violence and Access to Justice in Liberia,” which privileged the group to visit every community in Liberia, disclosing that it took three years to complete the research.

Through the research, he revealed that there are places in the country where no statutory system exists, adding that by default, the people in such places have only one remedy if they are abused or hurt, which is the use of the customary system. Prof. Sayndee continued that there are immense challenges in addressing SGBV issues, noting that if one takes the statutory option to seek justice for abuse, it starts with the police, the hospital or some of the local authorities available. But he noted that the hard reality is that the police are underserved. He said they lack the logistics, the requisite training and in some cases, the means to be able to do what they know they should do. “We want to address these issues, they are not issues in isolation. They are issues that are tied into the overall growth and development of Mama Liberia,” he said.

Proxying for Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Ingrid Wetterqvist, Ms. Dwede Tarpeh, Project Officer for Gender at the Embassy of Sweden near Monrovia, inducted the LIBSGBV’s Board of Directors. She told members of the board that there is a real opportunity for engagement around SGBV issues, describing their roles as critical.

In her keynote speech, Madam Kebbeh Monger, President of the Rural Women Association of Liberia, stressed the importance of creating awareness to convey strong anti-rape messages across all communities. She challenged community people to make intervention by taking victims to hospitals or police stations upon hearing of rape or other SGBV cases, even if the victims are not relatives.