Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Role of the Youth in Promoting Women/Girls’ Rights
Statement delivered by Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei at a Symposium organized by the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) at the William V.S. Tubman High School
May 16, 2008

I am very delighted to expatiate on this topic that is of major concern in our contemporary world. First of all, let me extend my gratitude to the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) for organizing this unique program, and for my preferment to deliver on this topic.

Issues concerning women’s rights and empowerment have been of major focus in many public discussions principally due to the increasing wave of consciousness of the women of the world to speak out vociferously and courageously for their rights; and their enlightenment that they have pivotal roles in the promotion of socio-economic development. Thus the women of the world are on an accelerating course to catch up with the modern concept of globalization and its pragmatic appurtenances.

Democracy as a system of participatory governance is incomplete when there is a de facto or any form of discrimination (against) or marginalization of any group of people in reaction to their sex or gender- something which no one has control over. Beyond the definition of Democracy as a system of government by the people, for the people and of the people lies the question of equal participation. And this participation should not be decided by the identity, gene, lineage, sex, or gender of an individual, but the ability and competence to fully discharge duties in public service. In the pursuit of achieving this, everyone has to be given the opportunity for education and self advancement.

The primary reason for which women around the world are forming coalitions to advocate for their rights is that it had been discovered that for centuries their rights have been violated. In some countries, legislations were passed denying them of certain things, in some, the denial of women of certain basic rights was a mere tradition accepted by everyone. It is in the general recognition of these violations against women that international conventions and protocols are being signed mandating states to protect and empower women. One may ask why there are no coalitions or international protocols and conventions for men’s rights. But the answer is man had established himself as a master and had now recognized his limitations without the women, thus he is giving in for equal participation and collaborations.

Liberia is a post-conflict African state whose civil war accounts for some of the worst forms of barbarity against the human race, mainly women and children. Besides the atrocities committed against women during the civil war, they have already been living with limitations due to the gross imbalance in educational opportunities in Liberia which in turn limits their abilities and desires for participation in socio-economic development, leadership and decision making and the desires to own properties independently.

Most of these are still on-going in larger parts of the country, where young women in their teens are forced into early marriages. These are mostly in some parts of rural Liberia and in some traditional settings. The case of the rural women should now be of primary concern to youth activist and women activists as well. Because, in the rural communities where there are limited educational facilities and vocational centers, most families still support the education of boys than girls, and the tendencies of traditional schools in stopping girls from obtaining quality education is still prevalent. A case of such was recently reported from Grand Cape Mount County where parents took their girls children from school for traditional bush school.

The curtailing of such practices and the advancement of the rights of women in Liberia depends on consolidating our efforts as activists to working together in promoting legislations, carrying on awareness against sexual exploitation and abuse, rape and all forms of violence against women. It is good to note that Liberia is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Chatter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, all of which have provisions for the protection of the rights of women, and the AU Protocol on Women’s Rights, which is a brilliant compilation of laws asking state parties to follow in protecting the dignity of the women. Additionally, this country has demonstrated a commitment to end violence and abuse against women by the ratification of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights on the rights of Women in Africa, and a passage of the New Rape Law by the legislature.

With this demonstration on the part of our Government, it is our appeal as youths that the government goes beyond the formality of writing and enacting policies, and ascending to a state of implementation through programs and projects, monitoring and evaluation to ensure that what has been passed be felt by the people and the immediate beneficiaries.

The youth of Liberia are consciously aware that violence against women and all forms of discriminations against women are nothing more than social ills that can lead to violence and instability. As such we the youth of Liberia can do nothing more in promoting women’s rights than calling on the government to ensure the effective implementation of its laws to prosecute those involve in the cowardly acts of sexual abuse and exploitation of young Liberian women, rape, gender based violence and discrimination.

More to that, the rights of our women will not be upheld and promoted in the absence of adequate awareness and the education of our citizens in knowing the essence of those rights and the conventions that provide them. Therefore, we the young people of Liberia must now begin to engage in productive activities in our communities by using our various youth based organizations as campaigners and advocates, message carriers and proponents of women rights. The spill over effects of the success of such campaigns will result into the consolidation of peace and development, unity and genuine democracy which has been the general concern of nearly every youth based organization in Liberia.

It has been a general belief that the young people are the main perpetrators of violence in society and are mostly involved in acts of gang rape and gender based violence, but this can be curtailed if these young people are educated on the consequences of these acts, and are trained to live as civilized people who respect human dignity. The government and civil society groups must therefore engage in educating the young people against drug abuse and crimes; and train them to be used as peer educators to help in curtailing violence in the society.

Finally, I want to express warmest thanks and encouragement to youth and women, and institutions that are tirelessly working to improve our world; and a special kudos to women who are courageously taking up challenges in leadership and decision making in Liberia and the world at large. I want to say here clearly that the women revolution is no threat to the survival and progress of men, but a process that had introduced a challenge for self advancement, and an opportunity for a strong partner in development, as we are all aware that this revolution is empirically making a difference in the positive direction.

I Thank You.

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