Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Liberia is reaching a nerve wrenching proportion: male employers are harassing female employees sexually; teachers are asking female students for sex in exchange for grades; stepfathers are abusing and impregnating stepdaughters; children as young as 10 years old are being raped older men. Hence, Liberia’s first female Vice President and long time campaigner of women and girls rights, Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor says “enough is enough. This inhumane act meted against women and girls is unacceptable and barbaric. It should have no place in our society. These babies should be allowed to grow in a conducive environment without anyone abusing them and ruining their future.”
Addressing the virtual summit of the African Leadership Magazine on June 25, Chief Dr. Taylor said although Africa is plagued with the devastating effects of Covid-19, the vulnerability of women who are prime bread winners for many families remains the sine qua non to any post Covid-19 efforts. The summit was held under the theme: “Covid-19- pathways to Africa’s economic recovery and future growth”.
The Liberian Vice President said ” there is something striking happening as the world deals with Covid-19 and its attending effects: babies are being raped. In some instances, they are being killed because people don’t want them to report the evil perpetrated against them.”
The event brought together world leaders including Rt. Hon. Ambrose Dlamini, Prime Minister of Eswatini, Lord Dollar Popat, Member, UK House of Lords and UK Prime Minister’s Envoy to Rwanda and Uganda; Dr Victor Oladdokun, Former Director of Communications, African Development Bank; Senyo Hosi, Chairman Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors, among others.
She is demanding the protection of girls because “they are only children. They deserve the protection that ensure a secured future for them.”
“Countries and governments are under obligations to ensure that women and girls survive the surge of violence against them because everyone is in a survival mode since predators are preying on the vulnerability of women and girls.
“Countries across Africa are in lockdown mode and this is having devastating effects on the continent’s population- a majority of whom have to live below poverty line and have to hustle to win bread for themselves. If these people are asked to stay home, you can imagine what that means for them. The lockdown makes access to basic social services nonexistent.
VP Howard-Taylor said in spite of the glomming global picture, policy makers must showcase Africa as the new frontier.
She told participants at the African Summit that solutions to addressing the impact caused by the pandemic are imbedded in recent statement delivered by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In the statement South African president is quoted as saying that Africa has a bright future if Africans can put in place a system of good governance, take responsibilities for the continent’s growth and take the advantage of the opportunities brought forth by COVID-19.
She joined the South African president to call on Africans to begin reprograming and putting in place strategies that would change the narratives to enhance the development of Africa and discourage young Africans from seeking better opportunities outside of the continent.
“These words of the South African President remind me and many others that there is no time better than now to not only engage into discussions but to begin to put in place strategies and regimes that would bring this vision to a reality” , VP Howard-Taylor noted.
The Liberian Vice President whose advocacy for women and girls spans over 20 years has taken actions to match her words with deeds by supporting the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill in the Liberian Legislature with the hope that Female Genital Mutilation ((FGM) would be included. Unfortunately, the bill was passed into law without the inclusion of FGM.
To solidify her advocacy for the protection of girls in Liberia, Chief Dr. Howard Taylor established the Jewel Starfish Foundation (JSF) that has, for decades, provided opportunities in educational scholarships, economic empowerment, mentorship for adolescent girls to enlighten them about the value of their bodies.
Additionally, Chief Dr. Howard Taylor, through the foundation is empowering females with capacity building tools that will enable them achieve sustainable means of livelihood; inspiring women to believe that one can become whatever they choose to be as well as bring females together to share experiences, learn from one another, network, advocate, create awareness on critical issues; and map out plans and strategies for expanded opportunities and showcase the achievements of females, and foster a new generation of Women Leaders.
Since the avalanche of the virulent coronavirus disease and its correlating negative effects on every stratum of the society, the Liberian first female Vice President has reached out to beneficiaries of the foundation’s scholarship and economic empowerment programs and provided anti Covid-19 materials and food as a way to ensuring that they are protected from abuse while trying to fend for themselves.
The decision to go beyond the ordinary during this difficult period became compelling since domestic violence was leaping indiscriminately because victims of abuse were sharing the same space with their victimizers involuntarily due to lockdown measures put in place to curb the spread of the disease that has, till date, taken 27 lives in Liberia and more than a million lives worldwide.
Among all of the horrors that COVID-19 has wrought, domestic violence is a growing scourge that lurks in the shadows. Indeed, a stark uptick in reports of domestic violence and abuse (more commonly referred to in clinical settings as “intimate partner violence” or “IPV”) has recently received national (and even global) attention. New estimates from the United Nations Population Fund suggest that three months of quarantine will result in a 20 percent rise in IPV throughout the world. In total, the report predicts at least 15 million additional cases of IPV will occur as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Pundits have opined that social isolation is one of the most common tactics employed by perpetrators of IPV. By isolating victims from friends, family, and any outside contact, abusers are able to assert control over the victim’s entire environment. Social isolation can lead to the normalization of abuse and allow abusers to more easily engage in gaslighting techniques. Severe and persistent isolation can cause victims to rely solely on their abusers to define a sense of reality, which feeds into a cycle of abuse that is very difficult to escape.
In Liberia, there is no data yet but report of increase in domestic violence and sexual abuse abound.