Source: Front Page Africa

Monrovia — A conglomerate of human rights civil society organizations in Liberia under the banner Civil Society Organizations Human Rights Advocacy Platform (CSO-Platform) of Liberia in a report has indicated that the Government of Liberia needs to do more to implement the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

With support from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the validation of the NGO shadow report on Liberia was held on the 27 May 2021 in Ganta, Nimba County, with actors from the Civil Society organizations under the CSO-Platform of Liberia, government representatives from the Ministries of Justice; Foreign affairs; Gender, Children and Social Protection and others who all gathered to discuss the shadow report. The activity is part of Spotlight Initiative project funded by European Union, which enabled OHCHR to hire national consultant to assist CSO-Platform in developing the shadow report.

The report which contains gaps in CEDAW implementation and suggests actions to be taken by Government of Liberia to remedy such gaps is expected to be presented to the CEDAW Committee who will consider the report while considering Liberia's 9th Periodic State report to the Committee.

During the validation of the CEDAW shadow Report on the 9th Periodic Report of Liberia, the shadow report pointed out that Government of Liberia has made little progress on the implementation of the 2015 CEDAW Concluding recommendations.

Amongst other things, the report is indicating that women face several obstacles when it comes to Gender Equality, Equality before the Law, harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), including other structural barriers through discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women's options to hold leadership position or run for political offices.

The NGO shadow report stated "Capacity gaps mean women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders. As the 2011 UN General Assembly resolution on women's political participation notes, "Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women."

The Head of the Civil Society Advocacy Platform, Adama Dempster said the report was developed through consultations and input from five counties namely -Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Nimba, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount Counties which he said are basically the spotlight counties where the project is specifically confined.

He said although the consultation for the activities in the shadow report are made in the five counties under the spotlight program but the report represents the trend of events in the entire country and not only those five counties as they are representative of issues but all the issues highlighted in the report are from all the entire counties in Liberia.

Dempster applauded the Government of Liberia for taking keen interest in the issues of human rights by ensuring that representatives from Government entities were present at the validation exercise.

Said Dempster "our report is not subjective, we invited government representatives to see the report and facts we have. They can provide more facts and data for our consideration. Bringing the government around the table shows that we are not hiding anything and that our report is objective. It also enhances credibility of our report". He extended thanks to the OHCHR for all the support that led to the successful preparation of the shadow report.

Francis A. Igiriogu, Human Rights Officer, Liberia Country Office, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the role of Civil Society Organizations in promoting and protecting human rights in any country cannot be over emphasized.

The OHCHR Human Rights Officer said Civil Society organizations and the Government are not enemies as they all work together for the protection of human rights. He was impressed by the cordial working relationship between government agencies and CSOs in Liberia as exemplified by presence of many representatives from government ministries.

He praised Civil Society organizations in Liberia for ensuring that issues of human rights are taken to the highest level, emphasizing that shadow report is a very important tool that helps United Nations treaty bodies in assessing the claims of states in their state party report

"You as CSOs in Liberia are doing your best to ensure that Liberia human rights obligations are not only monitored nationally but followed up at the international level by submitting shadow report to the relevant treaty bodies. We are with you in this effort to ensure that Government of Liberia carries out its human rights obligation both at home and at the international level by submitting relevant treaty bodies and UPR reports, the OHCHR Human Rights Officer assured.

The OHCHR Human Rights Officer in a brief presentation outlined positive steps noted by the CEDAW Committee Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eight periodic report of Liberia 2015. These are the Education Reform Act of 2011, which seeks to advance girls' education at all levels; Children's Law of 2011, which partly addresses female genital mutilation; Law Reform Commission Act of 2011, which provides for the revision of laws including those with a bearing on women's rights; National action plan on trafficking, launched in 2014; and many other measures.

Human Rights Officer Igiriogu said there are many areas of concerns and recommendations made by CEDAW Committee in 2015 to Liberia that are still yet to be implemented.

There was also presentation by Momolu Woloba director from Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection on the highlights of 9th periodic state party report to the CEDAW Committee.

Kutaka Divine Togbah Director of the Ministry of Justice/ Human Rights Division also thanked the CSO-Platform for organizing the platform for the validation of the NGO shadow report.

He said the Human Rights Platform made no mistake by inviting Government of Liberia institutions to the validation exercise.

"We are here to listen and provide our own suggestion to the document which the CSO is not under obligation to accept because shadow report is exclusive preserve of CSO but when government and CSOs work together in things like this, it bears better fruits' s ", the MOJ Human Rights director stated.

In his speech Attorney Korboi Daniels, Director Legal Department Ministry of Foreign Affairs commended the CSO-Platform for the shadow report validation and pledged support of his office to move human rights promotion and protection forward in Liberia.

The NGO Shadow Report highlighted a number of issues and made several recommendations on many of them including health, education, advancement of women, harmful practices, amongst others.

Specifically on rural women, the report noted that the State Party should develop and implement a policy for job creation to enable women to become economically empowered.

"That State Party should develop a legal framework that provides for alternative and affirmative action for women empowerment; that the realization of substantive gender equality, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, throughout the process of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable Development be adhered to".

The Report also recommends cooperation amongst specialized agencies and programs of the United Nations OHCHR and UN Women.

The validation exercise was attended by representatives from score of civil society organizations, government agencies, United Nations agencies and other institutions.

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