UNV raises awareness in Liberia on domestic violence
Unification Town, Liberia: Impunity to domestic violence can be effectively stopped if reported to authorities, according to a programme run by UNV volunteers in Liberia.
Italian Giulia Gitti, a UNV Human Rights Officer attached to the United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations, coordinated the programme to raise awareness of domestic violence on International Women’s Day (8 March).
Ms Gitti and other UNV Human Rights Officers in Liberia have been facilitating the elimination of boundaries and obstacles that prevent women’s inclusion as vital stakeholders in Liberian civil society. That, however, has taken a turn for the worse in some areas of the country. The Liberian National Police (LNP) in the community of Unification Town in Margibi County, east of the capital Monrovia, has noted an increasing trend in violence and abuse towards women and children.
Some 280 volunteers of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme are currently supporting the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) that has been in the western African Nation since October 2003. The volunteers directly help UNMIL and other UN agencies in Liberia.
In collaboration with YMCA, Ms Gitti and other human rights officers (HROs) discussed the problem of domestic violence directly with 75 participants (90 percent female) including police officers, teachers, students and a representative of the Magisterial Court. The HROs stressed the importance of women and their contributions to a stable civil society.
The wounds of the civil war run deep in Liberia. More than 150,000 people in Liberia were killed in the course of the conflict that raged through most of the 1990’s. The atrocities carried out against the most vulnerable – women and children – were horrific to say the least.
In this brutal historical light, the work of Ms Gitti and UNV touches vital individuals, such as police and judicial branch members, who can make a difference with their contributions to a civil society that recognises and rewards the contributions of women.
To underscore the broad impact of violence towards wives, mothers and daughters, Ms Gitti and her colleagues divided the participants into groups to discuss photos taken from the book Broken bodies – broken dreams: violence against women exposed.
“The photos offer a powerful testimony of the different types of gender-based violence experienced by women and girls worldwide throughout their lives, through the use of images and illustrative text. Importantly, they allowed the participants to reflect on examples similar to the ones experienced in Liberia nowadays but especially during the war, without feeling exposed as if they were talking about themselves,” said Ms Gitti.
The book was published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Integrated Regional Information Networks and has been an integral method in highlighting the issue of violence against women.
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