By: Jerromie S. Walters
Old Road, Liberia: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) are common in workplaces, schools and including communities in Liberia. Efforts aimed at ending SEA against women and girls is the core at the moment for a local NGO in Liberia, called Medica Liberia.
Medica Liberia, a women’s rights organization working in Liberia, has embarked on the establishment and implementation of a comprehensive policy guideline for the protection against sexual exploitation and abuse across schools in Liberia.
The policy Guidelines for the protection against SEA which is on the verge of being officially adopted, was on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, finally reviewed by stakeholders from the Ministries of Education, Gender and Justice. The event was held on Old Road, Liberia.
The document as disclosed during the final review, considers the PREVENTION, REPORTING AND RESPONDING. This include Prevention of SEA, Raising Awareness, Communication and Dissemination of information, Background checks, Training, Mechanism for Reporting of SEA cases, disciplinary measures in case of violation, adherence to the Guideline and implementation of the Guideline.
It also identifies the purpose, Scope, Core principles, roles and responsibilities of students, School Staff, Parents, Partners and others associated with the school.
According to Medica Liberia Advocacy Officer Madam Christiana T. Wayon, considering the existence of all forms of sexual assault and abuse in every sector, the document will basically be used throughout Liberia.
“Actually this document when we shall have gone through the recommendations the people made and when it’s finally adopted, it will be used nationally in all schools and we will work towards having it in both private and public schools,” she noted.
Also speaking, United Nations Child Protection Program Officer, madam Ina Christenson applauded the team for the initiative and being forceful on the implementation of the document.
She believes Medica Liberia should be hailed for the initiative, as the issue of sexual abuse and harassment have become a troubling nightmare in Liberia.
For her part, the representative from the Ministry of Education School Health Division, madam Mercy Johnson Mason recommended the need to have the document place a portable handbook.
Madam Mason noted that with the significance of the document, Media Liberia should ensure the availability of it everywhere, in all sizes and means, in order to have the message it carries spread to a wider audience
On the other hand, an officer of the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberia National Police Mr Dixon N. Jlateh urged the significance to make exploitation criminalized.
He described the guideline as a good startup and looking forward to it’s implementation in the soonest time.
The purpose of the guideline as embedded in its dossier is to prevent, investigate, and respond to SEA cases brought to the school’s attention. This guideline will not tolerate SEA between school staff and students, among school staff and among students.
It applies to staff, students, volunteers, Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) members, and others associated directly with the school. In addition, the guideline applies to all types of schools, public, private, faith-based and community.
It basically considers the repeated occurrence of Abuse of Power, sexial abuse, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, schools’ administrators, staffs, survival or victims and partners.
Medica Liberia believes Students are to be encouraged to abstain and refuse any sexual activity with school staff as such relationships can be marked by inherently unequal power dynamics. However, an interaction between students and staff that results in SEA will in no situation be deemed a failure of the students to abstain because this guideline recognizes the power imbalance that surrounds cases of SEA.
In progress with the guideline, Stakeholders at the final adoption on Wednesday, agreed to have the document for review and amended after every three years.
The guidelines for the prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse in school is an initiative of Medica Liberia with funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Medica Liberia (ML) formerly Medica Mondiale Liberia is a non-governmental women’s right organization working in Liberia. The Organization offers support to women and girls who have been affected by sexual gender based violence (SGBV). Since 2006, Medica Liberia has been implementing programs for women and girls in Liberia’s South-eastern parts and recently extended its coverage to Montserrado and Margibi Counties respectively, through funding from the German Government and other donors.