Muslim and Christian leaders condemn sexual violence against children in Liberia
12 February 2014: Careysburg, Rural Montserrado, Liberia: Muslim and Christian leaders of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) condemned sexual violence against children and called on the government, people and development partners to protect the welfare and rights of all children in the country and beyond.
Speaking to a gathering of vulnerable adolescent girls who completed their one-year training programme to enhance vocational skills, Secretary General of the Liberian Council of Churches, James Y. Gayflor, said that real peace in Liberia will prevail only after every boy and girl is lifted from poverty and adequately protected from violence.
“Peace does not mean the absence of guns. If our women have no access to farm roads to sell their produce…that’s not peace. If our women do not have health care facilities to deliver their babies…that’s not peace. If our young girls and boys are forced to live in abject poverty then it’s not peace,” he said.
Sheikh Oumaru of the Muslim Council of Liberia also urged the government, UNICEF and its visiting partners from Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK) in Japan to expand similar skills development initiatives to other parts of the country so that all vulnerable adolescent girls are empowered and protected from violence.
UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett said that the new skills not only provided opportunities for the young girls but enhanced their confidence and independence which should also help reduce their vulnerabilities.
Mr. Yett added that, “Religious leaders and communities of faith have the moral authority to raise awareness of issues related to violence, to advocate for concrete measures, to protect those most at risk and to support the victims.” He said that UNICEF will continue to partner with religious organizations to help meet the rights of children.
The Shaita Women of Faith (WoF) group in Careysburg is part of the IRCL Women’s branch and provides community support to vulnerable adolescent girls such as teenage mothers and out of school girls.
The girls are trained in tailoring, soap making and pastry thus empowering them to protect themselves from exploitation and abuse. The programme also provides day care services for babies of the teenage mothers so that they can attend school.
“We want to continue similar projects to help more girls because we know that if women and communities are empowered, they are better able to protect and care for themselves and their children,” said the group’s advisor, Sophie Sims.
One of the graduates, Ruth Dennis expressed her appreciation to the Shaita group, IRCL and UNICEF for supporting her to become an independent business woman.
UNICEF is supporting the skills development training programme for vulnerable adolescent girls in Careysburg with financial assistance from Rissho Kosei-Kai, an international Buddhist organization in Japan.
UNICEF is supporting the Government and UN Joint Programme on Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) in Liberia to strengthen children’s skills and help protect themselves from violence; to change attitudes and social norms that tolerate sexual violence against children; and strengthening policies and laws.
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