Today, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center) is celebrating its second anniversary; it is also International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is #BreaktheBias. To celebrate International Women’s Day last year, we held a panel discussion entitled Amujae Leaders: Liberia In Focus, which focused on women’s political leadership in Liberia. This year, there are many achievements to celebrate at the EJS Center, including our two cohorts of Amujae Leaders, the successful #HaveHerBack Campaign, and the release of our report on Mapping Progress in Liberia: The 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
We had planned to continue the tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day with an event entitled Women in the Grassroots: Liberia In Focus, a facilitated discussion with women leading non-governmental organizations in Liberia. However, given the recent disheartening spike in gender-based violence in Liberia, we have decided that we cannot celebrate while our mothers, sisters, and daughters continue to face the threat of violence. At present, Liberia ranks 175th out of 189 countries in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Gender Inequality Index, demonstrating the significant gap between Liberian women and men. In response to this recent surge in gender-based violence, EJS Center Founder and Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated:
“We cannot be celebratory when our Liberian sisters are still facing the threat of violence. Instead, let us break the bias in our homes, schools, universities, communities, courtrooms, and institutions that perpetuates violence against women and girls, and stands in the way of its eradication.”
The EJS Center acknowledges that some important steps have been taken over recent years to address gender-based violence in Liberia. For example, the Domestic Violence Act was signed into law in 2019 after being tabled in 2016. The Act provides a comprehensive definition of domestic violence, which acknowledges the many forms it can take. But more must be done to eradicate violence against women and girls in Liberian society. Further progress is needed through multiple channels, including policymaking, legislation, grassroots engagement, advocacy, and community-led initiatives. Women public leaders and civil society activists should continue to steer these efforts, building on their years of work on this pressing issue. However, sustainable progress requires the commitment and support from male allies—at the community level and at the highest levels of government.
We must end the cycle and #BreakTheBias. The EJS Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Ophelia I. Weeks, noted that:
“On this 2022 International Women’s Day, the EJS Center recognizes that this issue is critical and cannot be dismissed. We must work harder to combat gender-based violence, hold those responsible accountable, and create a safer society for women and girls.”
Please join us in raising awareness of this critical issue by posting the graphic below on your social media accounts with the following message:
“This International Women’s Day, we must #BreaktheBias against speaking out about gender-based violence. It’s time to end all forms of violence against women and girls. https://bit.ly/3Kn3Gqc #IWD #InternationalWomensDay2022”