An insight from President Weah’s speech
The President said there was a reduction in Sexual and Gender Based Violence cases in December of 2021, compared to the reports of 2020 December.
“We have been able to raise awareness among communities about the referral systems, the government’s anti-Sexual and Gender Based Violence Call Center and can ensure its functionality”.
President Weah said during the emergence of the COVID-19 when most women and girls were confined in their homes, there was a steep increase in the reporting of sexual and gender-based violence cases due to the heightened awareness, he said, government conducted in communities and at the grass-root level.
The President delivered to the Liberian National Legislature his 5th State of the Nation Address on January 24, 2022 in fulfillment of Article 58 of the Liberian Constitution, promising to reduce gender based violence by 30% between now and 2023.
Though he did not give baseline information, the Liberian Leader assured that one of his Government’s priorities is to reduce the incidence of sexual and gender based violence by 30 percent by 2023.
Through the provision of appropriate support services and access to justice systems, the President said, he was pleased to report that significant progress is being made to make this a reality.
An obvious challenge to gender development, like many other sectors in Liberia, remains the availability of an independent data source to verify government’s reports.
The Liberian Leader in his 2hrs and 35minutes speech said empowerment of women is one of the top priorities of his Administration. The President said he made these commitments at the Biden Summit for Democracy December last year.
The Liberian Leader said women’s participation in the electoral process is a top priority, he said, his government will continue to support openness for more women to contest seats in the Legislature; as well as other key positions in Government.
The President said his stance in ensuring the rights and protection of all couldn’t be overemphasized. “As a HeForShe Champion, I remain committed to the dignity of upholding human rights and safeguarding our most vulnerable population — our women, girls and children”.
“With regard to gender parity, we also committed at the Biden Summit for Democracy to ensure gender equality and empowerment of women as one of the top priorities of our Administration. To this end, we are assured that our Government is fully committed to freeness, fairness, transparency and accountability in elections funding, budgeting and processes”.
“Traditional and religious leaders are also beefing up the efforts to change the story and narratives of survivors and victims, as well as supporting prevention efforts of sexual and gender-based violence. While we all may be aware that “prevention is better than cure”, we will continue to work with our UN counterparts, INGOs, NGOs, and civil society organizations to increase efforts in preventing sexual and gender-based violence”, President Weah said.
The Liberian President said the government made interventions in rehabilitation of safe homes and one-stop centers, including in River Gee and Grand Cape Mount Counties, as well as other safe spaces for children, stating that his Government would continue to ensure that no perpetrators should go unpunished.
On the other hand, Weah said he was more concerned about his government’s response to sexual and gender-based violence, which prompted, he said, the setting up of the Presidential Taskforce on Sexual and Gender Based Violence through the implementation of the “Government of Liberia and Partner’s Anti-Sexual and Gender Based Violence Roadmap 2020-2022”.
He informed the National Legislature about the procurement of DNA machines to aid in evidence gathering of related sexual and gender-based violence cases. “This will bring relief and justice to both survivors and alleged perpetrators during the legal proceedings of Sexual and Gender Based Violence cases at the level of the court”, he said.
Informing the Legislature about his education program, the President said available school statistics have it that the total number of senior secondary schools in the country is 752 as of Academic 2020 / 2021, of which, he said the Government owns only 156.
“ To reduce that gap, the IRISE Project shall fund the construction of 25 new Secondary Schools strategically situated in 25 school districts that are currently without secondary schools”, he said.
“Under this project”, the President said, “we are also funding the training of 35 University instructors out of the country, procuring a digital library, revising textbooks for students and upgrading curriculum.
He said in an effort to address the gaps in girl education, the government would provide scholarship financial support for 3,000 Girls transitioning from 9th grade in 4 counties considered as having the highest rates of Girls dropout from High School. As there are no tuitions in Public Schools, sponsorship shall cover all registration fees, uniforms, textbooks, and annual cash allowances.
My stance in ensuring the rights and protection of all cannot be overemphasized. As a HeForShe Champion, I remain committed to the dignity of upholding human rights and safeguarding our most vulnerable population — our women, girls and children.
The President said his government was striving to meet a national target of ensuring that 5,000 extremely poor and food insecure households, and 13,000 individual beneficiaries, receive cash transfers by 2023. He said the Liberia Social Safety Nets Project is in full swing and making significant impact, while giving special thanks to the World Bank and USAID.
“Based on the economic crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded the beneficiary pool with support from the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (UKAID) and the World Bank. An additional 15,000 households within Urban Montserrado County were enrolled and benefitted– making a greater impact in the lives of 18,300 beneficiaries in three counties, with 82 percent of the beneficiaries being females and 27 percent being males”, the President said.
The President informed the National Legislature that phase two of the program has been launched to add an additional 6,500 households by the end of March 2022, intoning that to establish the basic building blocks for social protection and an equitable and objective process to the distribution of limited resources, the Liberian Household Social Registry under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is well on its way with 233,000 Households profiled across five (5) counties — Bomi, Bong, Nimba, Maryland and Montserrado. He said enrolment continues across the country, stating that he would like to encourage all households to participate.
He said his government remains cognizant of mainstreaming gender in the formulation of policies and programs that drive the development of Liberia, emphasizing that with support from the UN, they have developed, for the first time, the country’s Gender Equality Profile.
“It provides an in-depth analysis that will enhance the understanding of the differences in the conditions, needs, participation rates, access to resources and property rights, development planning and control of assets, decision-making powers between girls, women, boys and men in their assigned gender roles”, he said.
Meanwhile, despite his submission that the state of the economy is healthier, President Weah also reported the total stock of domestic debt, which he said stands at $660 million U.S. dollars and the total stock of external debt now stands at approximately $1.03 billion U.S. dollars for a total public debt stock valued at $1.69 billion U.S. dollars as at December 31, 2021.
“The total stock of domestic debt now stands at $660 million U.S. dollars and the total stock of external debt now stands at approximately $1.03 billion U.S. dollars for a total public debt stock valued at $1.69 billion U.S. dollars as at December 31, 2021”, President Weah said.
In closing, the Liberian Leader rallied the citizens to remain peaceful and united He said, “As we go from this place today, let us continue to walk in unity and peace. I want to thank you, wholeheartedly and sincerely, for maintaining the peace. Let us continue to do so. For without peace, there can be no development”
Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said: “Peace is the greatest weapon for development that any person can have. It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.”