Liberia:
Gender Based Violence (GBV)
Staff and local partner training on GBV
Case Management - Lofa County Liberia
Staff and local partner training on GBV Case
Management - Lofa County Liberia
Protocol Workshop with UN and local partners to establish a referral pathway when
responding to cases of gender based violence - Lofa County, Liberia
Lofa County suffered the brunt of the last years of the Liberian civil war.  During
that time, cases of rape and other forms of gender based violence had been
widely reported by refugee and internally displaced populations in the camps.  
The history of abuse was further corroborated by women associated with the
fighting forces  as they passed through the disarmament process.  With this
knowledge, we were asked to set up a program to help communities respond
and prevent incidents of gender based violence as best as they could with the
resources that they had available.  

After years of establishing GBV programs in a variety of different
Staff training on Basic Concepts of GBV
- Lofa County Liberia
Staff training on GBV Case Management Lofa
CountyLiberia
Training local partner in active listening skills
Lofa County Liberia
Staff and local partner training on GBV
Case Management - Lofa County Liberia
Women's Day
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
International Women's Day March
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Roll play on domestic violence
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Elder woman explaining how gender issues are reflected in stories and proverbs they grew
up learning - Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Community leaders, health workers and police learning concepts behind GBV
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Yassa facilitating a training
Lawalazu Lofa County Liberia
We took all these complications in
stride.  I knew that within the  six
months that I was there that I probably
wasn't going to see substantial
changes to the lives of women we
worked with.  we were going to set up
the foundation for a long term project.  
This meant a lot of what we did was
building capacity of local institutions
and partners to handle GBV to
respond effevctively and prevent GBV
icidents from happening.  

The idea of gender based violence,
while very apparent in in their daily,
was rather new.  People saw it
happening everyday but they didn't
equate it as being bad or good for
their community.  We conducted a
number of trainings with them .  
Solicitating ideas from the women
Lawalazu Lofa County Liberia
Juah and Beatrice facilitating a training
Lawalazu Lofa County Liberia
Everyone has something to say
Lawalazu Lofa County Liberia
Everyone has something to say
Voinjama Lofa County Liberia
Everyone has something to say
Lawalazu Lofa County Liberia
to reflect to explore the issues surrounding GBV and reflect how it effects their
community, their families, and the relationship between men and women.  The
trainings were always exciting as men and women explored themselves to discussed
and debated how this challenge affected their lives.  

We also trained leaders of the community, community activist, government institution
(like the health clinic staff, police, and magistrates) and international agencies
supporting the local institutions about how GBV affects their work and how they can
improve their response and prevention to incidents of GBV.  In collaboration with all the
partners we developed a coordination body that monitored the manifestation of GBV in
the community and addressed the challenges each agency had dealing with the GBV
issues in their work acknowledging the limited resources available. WE also worked
closely with two local relief agencies and trained them to how to provide support to
survivors of GBV using a case managment model.  


As always the project has a long way to go.  We worked in 5 towns in Lofa County.  But
our team of social workers and community workers / trainers are dedicated to reducing
violence in these communities and hope that these five communities will help extend
the project into new communities.    They were great and it was a real pleasure to work
with them.  
The IRC Lofa GBV team: N'yama, Juah Amos, me, Kpehe, Fatoumata, Rachel, James, Yassa,
Beatrice, Theresa, Mafua by my garden in the raock
The IRC Lofa GBV team: James, Anita, me, Fatoumata, Yassa, Juah, Eugenia, Kpehe, Mafua,
Theresa, Rachel, N'yama and Amos on Toma hill aka Pakbatt Picnic Point
conflicts around the globe, our
experience had shown that during
periods of transition there is a high
risk of violence towards women
especially in the forms sexual
assault, sexual exploitation, and
domestic violence.  Communities are
coming back to rebuild and they are in
the process of setting institutions that
would protect vulnerable individuals.  
We step in to assist them through this
process and ensure that the systems
they adopt are practical and do not
cause additional harm.   When
working on GBV issues this become
particularly sensitive as sometimes
we need to confront cultural or
traditional practices  that may actually
condone or promote violence against
women.

The fact that Lofa County was virtually depopulated by the time I arrived in August 2005 posed some
interesting delemma for us as we started the project.  With empty villages and maurading ex-combatants in
the county it was difficult assess the future needs of communities as began to return.  More challenging,
however, was that our programs are based on community led initiatives.  Without people there are no
communities.  So it took us some time before we could select sites to establish our projects.  In addition
communities don't just appear.  People start trickling back over a period of time.  During that time there are a
variety of changes in the leadership of the community as communities are fluid and grow from 10  people to
150 people to 2,000 individuals.   Between January and August 2005 more
than 85,000 people returned to Lofa through organized repatriation.  It's not known how
many additional people returned spontaneously without the support of the UN but it is
assumed to be a large number as you would spot big trucks carry people and their
belongins up the highway from Monrovia  

Besides the fluxuation of the population, key institutions such as the police and courts
were missing until March and August respectfully.  Even when the institution came back
they had so few human and material resources that they could hardly be expected to
provide adequate health care and appropriate protection  The entire county was
vulnerable.  Everybody had loss.  Everybody was poor.  But there were individual who
were even more vulnerable than the ordinary citizen.  This added additional challenges
to us as we tried to set up the project.  

For us, protection was the biggest issue we had to deal with.  Our caseload is
inherently violent and we always had to assess the security of our clients as well as the
staff assisting them.  The difficulty of this decision was compounded by the fact that
there were only 28 police officers, in training, stationed in the entire county.  They had no
communication networks or vehicles.  They didn't have a jail until March 2005 or prison
until June 2005.   In essence we wouldn't be able to protect the client or our staff if it
was a high risk situation.  Unfortunately Cases in Lofa went brutally violent very  quickly.  
There was hardly ever a build up before a disagreement went to blows.  Even the UN
police who were there to train the fledgling Liberian police officers were shocked by the
rapid development to the use of violence.  When kids grow up in a violent world they
solve their problems through the only way they know, more violence.  

The most challenging scenerio for us when we first started the project was if a woman,
who had been abducted during the war and had "married" her captor, wanted to leave
the increasingly brutal relationship but she was originally from the same town as her
captor.  We could easily handle women in the same scenario who were from another
county.  We had a safe house in Monrovia and as long as we could find her family (and
they were willing to support when she returned) we could find ways to help get out of the
relationship.  But woman whose family is  from the same town we would be unable to
protect her without a high risk of her being attacked later or one of our staff being
targeted.
Roll play on domestic violence
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Women's Day
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Women's Day
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Women's Day
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Women's Day
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia
Women's Day
Bakaidou, Lofa County Liberia