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Liberia Breaks New Ground For Women

Liberia Breaks New Ground For Women, Peace And Security

For the first time in a post-conflict country, national governmental institutions, the United Nations, and civil society organizations have worked together to build an inclus
ive policy document for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. On International Women’s Day 2009, the Government of the Republic of Liberia, headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, launches its national action plan on women, peace and security.

[Monrovia, Liberia – 8 March 2009]: Over the last seven months, an team comprised of the Ministry of Gender and Development of the Government of Liberia, the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW) and the Office of the Gender Advisor of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia (UNMIL/OGA) has worked to draft, negotiate and adopt a comprehensive policy that promises to implement decisive steps towards gender equality, sustainable peace and inclusive security for all citizens of Liberia.

On the occasion of the International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security (Monrovia, March 7th to 10th 2009), Liberia celebrates women’s leadership, through the presidency of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the strength of will and dedication with which Liberian women have fought for peace. To continue the work towards gender equality and peace the Liberian authorities will launch the unprecedented National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, “It is essential to put these international commitments into practice and make women part of planning and decision-making on security issues,” emphasized the Honorable Minister for Gender and Development of Liberia, Vabah Gayflor. “Liberia is proud to have come so far and to be able to demonstrate our political will to put gender equality and human security into practice through the adoption of this National Action Plan.”

After fourteen years of armed conflict (1989-2003), Liberia has established an effective government highly committed to human development, gender equality, and sustainable peace. The only African nation with an elected female head of state has repeatedly proven its will to implement exemplary gender equality policies and to tackle the aftermath of its civil conflict - which included atrocities such as systematic rape, recruitment of child soldiers, and as a result of some of the atrocities, the spreading of HIV/AIDS.

Studies conducted by the Ministry of Gender and Development, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the World Health Organization in 10 out of 15 counties with a sample of 2858 women and girls in Liberia indicate that rape accounted for 73.9 percent of cases of sexual violence of those sampled during the years of the civil war, with members of the fighting forces viewed as the main perpetrators. In Liberia today, rape continues to permeate society and is the crime most frequently reported to the police.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted in 2000 in order to address the impact of conflict and warfare on women, their participation in conflict resolution and peace-building, and the protection and prevention from sexual violence. Despite widespread support for the Resolution, few countries, mainly European, have managed to implement it in a comprehensive or sustainable way and launch a national action plan.

“Planning processes that aim to translate international instruments into national policies are a challenge that requires sufficient funding, political will and expertise. Resolution 1325 is extremely complex, as it embraces a number of different dimensions of development and involves all sectors of society,” stressed UNMIL Senior Gender Advisor, Carole Doucet.

Beginning in August 2008, the Ministry of Gender established an interagency team based in Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development to lead the action planning process. A Steering Committee chaired by the Ministry of Gender, UN-INSTRAW and UNMIL Office of the Gender Adviser and representatives from other governmental institutions, UN agencies and civil society organizations was established in order to guide the drafting of the plan. Community chiefs and organizations working outside Monrovia negotiated on an ongoing basis within this forum bringing different perspectives at one table. “A planning process that brings together all relevant stakeholders, and that takes into account the real needs of the local population, will be more sustainable over the long term because people will see themselves reflected in the text of the resulting plan,” stated UN-INSTRAW Acting Director Carolina Taborga. “A plan that is not inclusive will have no ownership, and essential accountability and monitoring components may be left out,” she concluded.

The Liberia National Action Plan is unique in that it also incorporates some of the components of UN Security Council Resolution 1820 on sexual violence against civilians in times of conflict. This Resolution, adopted in June 2008, addresses previously-neglected areas such as equal protection under the law for survivors of sexual violence and punishment for perpetrators.

After the launch of the Plan on International Women’s Day, the challenge of putting the Plan into action begins in earnest. “Now the real work begins. We have built a broad-based consensus to work towards women’s participation in peace and security issues and the protection of their rights – we are willing and we are committed, and we count on the support of the international community to help us carry forward this commitment,” declared Minister Gayflor. “The women of Liberia have stated their priorities and their objectives for our future - gender equality and sustainable peace. Tomorrow we begin the long process of implementing this Action Plan. Today we join with the women of the world to celebrate the progress that we have already made,” she added.


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