The Spotlight Initiative has released its 2020-2021 impact report, ‘Rising To The Challenge’, showcasing the initiative’s success in addressing violence against women and girls and advancing their rights.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations that supports concrete measures to end all forms of violence against women and girls, giving prominence to prevention, protection, and the provision of services, alongside broader efforts to ensure women's economic empowerment and participation in all aspects of society.
The report acknowledges that the initiative’s “success hinges on the willingness of governments to lead by setting national priorities, guiding ministries and other institutions, and mobilizing their citizens to end violence against women and girls”.
The report features significant efforts and actions taken by the Government of Liberia to address violence against women and girls, including the pronouncement by His Excellency President George Manneh Weah, declaring rape as a national emergency during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In September 2020, Liberian President George Weah declared rape a national emergency, appointing a special prosecutor for rape, and establishing a National Sex Offender Registry and a National Security Taskforce on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. An initial allocation of USD 2 million was made by the government to roll out a Roadmap on Ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 2020-2022.” The report highlighted.
The report notes that despite implementation challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spotlight Initiative recorded successes in the areas of strengthening laws and policies, service provision, education and behavior change campaigns, conviction of perpetrators, and increased participation of civil society and local community actors in the implementation of the spotlight initiative.
In a related development, Liberia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ms. Cecilia Forgbe Wreh-McGill, echoed Liberia’s progress in addressing violence against women and girls at a recent roundtable with United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Her Excellency Madam Amina Mohammed on the Spotlight Initiative.
Presenting the achievements of the Government of Liberia under Phase One of the Spotlight Initiative, Ms. McGill informed the United Nations that a recent survey conducted with partners shows a significant change in attitudes and behaviors at the community level in five counties where the Spotlight Initiative is being implemented.
Ms. McGill: “After raising awareness, within the Spotlight Initiative and within the National Road Map; after conducting a social audit and designing the inventory of traditional leaders with our EU and UN partners; the 2021 research results (www.scoreforpeace.org) confirm that attitude and behaviors in the five counties are changing positively. Our people show less tolerance towards harmful practices, are less likely to commit violence and exert higher support to gender equality.”
The Liberian Diplomat named the passage of the Domestic Violence Act in August 2019, suspension of Sande (bush schools) activities, and budgetary allocation of Two hundred thousand United States dollars as major gains achieved under Phase One the Spotlight Initiative.
“The passage of the much-anticipated Domestic Violence Act in August 2019 was a significant legislative outcome for the Liberia Spotlight Initiative to address physical, emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse; dowry-related violence; offenses against the family; and harassment.
Our traditional leaders have committed to the 7-Count Policy which led to the suspension of Sande (bush schools) activities, potentially preventing FGM for twenty thousand girls, those traditional leaders are change agents promoting the elimination of harmful practices. Additionally, US$200,000 was allocated in the National Budget for FY2020 by the Government of Liberia as part of the Government's commitment to mainstreaming gender-responsive planning and budgeting (GRPB) throughout government spending entities to meet the specific needs of women, girls, boys, and men.” Ms. McGill expanded further.
Despite the successes, Deputy Permanent Representative McGill stressed that a lot more needs to be done for the Government to remain on track to achieving its goal of reducing and eliminating the incidence of violence against women and girls in Liberia.
She expressed thanks to the European Union and the United Nations for the partnership on the Spotlight Initiative and called for continued support to ensure that the initiative continues to impact the lives of women and girls, especially the most vulnerable. Ms. McGill also stressed the need for continued engagement with the European Union, United Nations, and other development partners, especially during the ongoing 16 days of activism against gender-based violence and Phase Two of the Spotlight Initiative to reach vulnerable women and girls across Liberia.
Other Spotlight Initiative implementing countries, including Nigeria, Timor Leste, Kyrgyzstan, and Jamaica, also briefed the roundtable event.
In response, Deputy- Secretary-General Amina Mohammed welcomed the progress made nationally in implementing the Spotlight Initiative, and noted that the issues of data collection, institutional ownership, intergenerational transition, and partnership, especially with Civil Society Organizations at the local level, were major themes that resonated during presentations by Spotlight Initiative implementing countries. The Deputy-Secretary-General assured that she will use the information to continue to make the case for more support to the initiative.
The Spotlight Initiative is currently being implemented in more than twenty countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific and the Caribbean.