By Staff Reporter
Realising that in many African countries violence against women and girls continue to be rooted in the widely accepted social norms that too often contribute to gender inequality, including male entitlement, domination and control over the bodies of women, a Liberian women and youth activist has recently urged everyone to fight for gender equality.
According to Oxfam’s research from 12 countries across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Pacific, one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. Whilst there is no single cause for such violence, some of the strongest and most consistent factors are harmful social norms that contribute to gender inequality.
“These norms are based on shared beliefs and expectations about how people should behave. They include male entitlement, domination and control over the bodies of women and girls, and rigid gender roles,” the research reveals.
Miatta Darwolor is the Founder and Executive Director of Sister Aid Liberia, a women-led non-governmental organization that promotes young women and girls’ rights in political participation and leadership.
The organisation is committed to prevent violence against women and girls and advocates for women-friendly policies and laws.
A women-led non-governmental organization also promotes rights advocacy and empowerment, research and policy engagements, and leadership and capacity building, mainly targeting women and girls across Liberia.
It has been learnt that Darwolor grew up in a poor family that was deeply rooted in tradition but fortunately her education opened her up to discussions on gender equality within her family where they agreed to respect and value the rights of girls and boys equally.
“Some of my sisters and aunties were members of the ‘Sande Society’, where female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced. Fortunately, I escaped the initiation but that also meant I faced discrimination.
“I depended on scholarship programmes to attend school. When I was in high school, I managed to support my mother to go to school with my income from part-time work. Since then, I have worked with several women’s organizations to raise awareness on women’s rights and the health implications of FGM. When I advocate for women’s rights, I am standing up for the rights of my sisters, mothers and daughters. My life experiences have strengthened my resilience and fortitude,” said Darwolor.
Through information from workshops,she highlighted, her family decided to never again ‘initiate’ girls through practices such as FGM, but rather promote girls’ education.
Darwolor further explained that poverty and patriarchal system are the root causes of violence against women and girls in Liberia as she stressed the need to empower women in Africa to stand up for their rights and take up leadership positions in all spheres of life so as to solve many societal issues.
“There is also a need to bridge the gap between the young and older generations. We are not in competition and are equally relevant to the fight for gender equality in Liberia.
“Advocating for gender equality should not only be the responsibility of women’s rights organizations; it is everybody’s responsibility to take action. More men need to realize that women’s rights are human rights, promote positive masculinity and discourage negative social norms, whether at home or work.”
The African Development Report(ARD) has it that instrumentally, achieving gender equality would have numerous economic and social benefits for women, their children and for society as a whole though it also highlights that despite the numerous merits of achieving a gender equal society, men and women are far from being equal in Africa.
“Achieving equality between men and women has both intrinsic and instrumental significance. Intrinsically, women, like men, have a right to justice in all societies. Denying 50% of Africa’s population from their deserved justice and the opportunity to contribute to economic and social development impacts the continent as a whole,”ADR underscores.
Sister Aid Liberia is now working with other women’s organizations to push for the signing of the FGM bill into law in Liberia.
It is being supported by UN Women in as much as its participation in training on women’s political participation is concerned, following which they stepped it down to 50 women political aspirants and CSOs.
By Staff Reporter