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It has been said that people remember 80% of what they see, 20% of what they read and only 10% of what they hear. As an auditory learner, I most effectively remember voices: both the things people say and how they say them. My current program with Vital Voices, which is underway outside of Monrovia, Liberia, requires a close listen to a variety of voices.

This week in Liberia, these voices come from a country whose roots are inextricably linked to my own country. Although they are speaking in my own language, they speak in different accents and tones, concerned with the most obdurate challenges and promising solutions to addressing women’s human rights in a post-conflict context. We have been speaking about the methodology around securing, protecting and promoting women’s rights more broadly. There is a demonstrated need for integrated, multi-sector approaches to addressing challenges faced by women, in order to push the needle forward on women’s rights worldwide. 

This has been a strong undercurrent of conversations among the 15 country delegations of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women since it launched in 2010. The emphasis on coordinated community response (CCR) among diverse, yet interconnected, stakeholders continues to reverberate throughout the delegation countries, particularly those addressing sexual violence across Africa.  

Last October, a Vital Voices Regional Working Session convened the three African delegations of the Global Partnership (DRC, Liberia, South Africa). Professionals across borders as well as disciplines – prosecutors, judges, service providers, NGO representatives and others – were engaged to strategize and share innovative and collaborative methods for addressing sexual violence in their nations and the region more broadly. During the program, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo, emphatically reminded the group: “There is no peace if violence against women exists.” This voice has followed me here to Liberia. 

Rosana Schaack of ThinkLiberia speaks to men and boys in Peace Island, Liberia.

In Liberia, it is estimated that two out of three women and girls throughout the country experienced some form of Sexual Gender Based Violence during Liberia’s 14-year conflict. This violence took many forms, including (but not limited to) rape, forced marriage and a prevalence of female child soldiers who were exposed daily to various forms of abuse. The armed conflict in Liberia ended in 2003, yet sexual violence against women and girls pervades households and communities throughout the country. The existence of peace depends, frankly, on how it is defined. 

What’s clear is that as violence against women persists in Liberia, so do determined efforts to rebuild and strengthen the country’s life force – its women – as well as to prevent and address new injuries in a holistic way. Doing so requires cross-sector collaboration and coordinated community response in order to provide the depth and breadth of services that survivors of violence require to continue the healing process, be it physical, psychological, family, legal, or otherwise.

I have witnessed these efforts firsthand, and continue to see it in my time with members of the Global Partnership’s Liberia delegation, each of whom’s contribution is of unique importance to this healing process. Our delegates rely on each other for the long-term health and growth of their work. My hope is to amplify these healing voices to make sure they are heard, listened to, learned from and remembered.

Please stay tuned for more updates from my travel through Liberia! 

Nicole is the Program Coordinator for the Human Rights program. 

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