By Victor C. Hanson, Jr
The ActionAid Liberia, in collaboration with the Mano River Youth Parliament and five university-based women forum over the weekend launched ‘safe cities for women’ campaign to assist in making women to enjoy city lives without fear of violence and harassment abuse as faced by millions of women each day.
Making the disclosure over the weekend at a press conference in Congo Town, Women and Girls Right ActionAid Program Manager, Elizabeth Gbah-Johnson, said the 2008 National Census results from the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-information Services (LISGIS), which states the country’s population at 3.7 million of which 2.2 million are urban inhabitants, and many of them are women.
Mrs. Johnson added that women rely on public toilets or open defection and public baths that are unsafe and where they risk getting molested; she also at work places, they (women) face sexual harassment and violence from their supervisors, on their way from work and to work.
Mrs. Johnson said dark streets are places where women can be abused, gang-raped, and while traveling on overcrowded buses and taxis they experience being harassed in schools, and teachers may sometimes demand sexual favors in exchange for grades.
She stated that women in cities everywhere are held back because of their fears and experience of rape, assault and sexual harassment when moving around, accessing education and health services; she also said women in poverty are unable to enjoy their right to the city and have little opportunities to make their voices heard or change their situation.
She said the media often blame survivors of sexual violence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and perhaps worse families of rape survivors often decided not to report the crime for fear that the families’ reputation might be tarnished, or because they have no faith that the police or court will bring them any justice.
Mrs. Johnson said the campaigning is intended to change the deeply embedded sexist attitudes, and to make government and university authorities, leaders and individuals act now to end sexual violence against women in cities and towns, and end impunity, and build cities that are safe for women.
She said they should have opportunities to speak out and be assisted to report and deal with cases of harassment and sexual violence, without being blamed in universities; she also said they want public services and infrastructure, including policing, public transport systems, sanitation and street lighting to be designed or re-designed, taking women’s safety into consideration, with the participation of women in their design, she concluded.