Consistent with its obligation to place gender issues on the front burner to build a gender responsive security sector in Liberia, the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT) has hit the ground running since March 2018 and is gaining momentum with differentiated strands of projects activities with targeted goals and objectives that are being implemented under the tripartite Project 00107245, “Inclusive Security: Nothing for Us without Us” .
The project is being funded by the UN Peace Building Fund (PBF) in collaboration with the UN Women, IOM, and UNDP.
The project is expected to increase the capacity of various government ministries and security institutions to effectively implement and report on Liberia National Action Plan UN SCR 1325; promote gender-responsive security sector reform; and to specifically strengthen the capacity of the three most relevant Government Ministries including Justice, Defense and Gender, Children and Social Protection to effectively oversee the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT), and other security institutions to be gender responsive in accordance with the UN SCR 1325 National Action Plan.
Also, the project focuses on ensuring that the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce is equipped with tools and skills to coordinate and implement the National Action Plan, and the gender aspect of the National Security Sector Strategy and to enable the full operationalization of the Gender and Security Sector Taskforce implement the National Human Rights Agenda, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
Following the Fundamental arrangements activities rolled out by the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce, including a community assessment in four counties, the convening of an Acquaintance Meeting, conducting of the regular bimonthly coordination meetings, the identification of institutional gaps or needs, development of a Work Plan, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Plan, Budget for the GSSNT’s Secretariat, and the Public Information outreach strategy.
Assessment For Construction of Peace Huts
The joint assessment for the construction of peace huts was conducted in four counties including Lofa, Nimba, Maryland and, Grand Cape Mount. The assessment was conducted between March 19 to April 14, 2018. It informed the selection of the communities on the construction of peace huts and more importantly, it acquainted targeted communities with the objectives of the project, and evaluated receptiveness of communities for peace huts.
This process identified local capacities to establish and run Peace Huts and potential conflict issues which could be managed by the communities if they are given appropriate skills.
The joint assessment was conducted in two phases. Phase one was with the local stakeholders in three county capitals while phase two was with the community stakeholders of the recommended communities per county.
These recommended communities per county included, Lofa county- Konadu, Kaza, and Yeala; Nimba-Lehyegair and Ganta; Grand Cape Mount County-Kru Town, Sinje and Bo-Waterside; Maryland County-Pelebo, Depleken and DakayTown-Baraken, respectively.
The assessment team was drawn from partners of UN Women on the tripartite project entitled “Inclusive Security: “Nothing for Us without Us.” The assessment team consisted of representatives from the Ministries of Justice (the Gender and Security National Taskforce), Defense, Gender, IOM and UN Women.
Needs Assessment and Gaps
The Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce Secretariat carried out two different needs assessments each requesting support from UN Women and UNDP to equip the office of the secretariat and the gender units of the various security institutions in order to function effectively. Two official letters of request were presented to the Country Representatives of UN Women and UNDP to approve support.
Among items requested were office equipment and furniture such as laptops, office chairs, desks, cabinets, conference tables, water fountain, etc.
Acquaintance and Coordination Meetings
One of the priority activities was to convene an acquaintance meeting. This meeting brought together two ministers of the Justice Ministry. They are , Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, Jr., Minister of Justice and Deputy Minister for Adminstration and Public Safety, Juah N. Cassell, international partners, and representatives from the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) and civil society organizations on Tuesday, 29 May, 2018.
The Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce stakeholders met at the Ministry of Justice with about twenty-five (25) representatives from the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR), Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA), the Swedish Embassy, other international partners and civil society organizations (CSOs).
The meeting was intended to introduce all incoming state and non-state security actors to the taskforce and discuss its functionality. The meeting highlighted the past project entitled “Supporting the Building of a Gender Responsive Security Sector”, and its measurable achievements.
In separate remarks, the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean together with his Deputy for Administration, Hon. Juah N, Cassell and the Gender Advisor, Maude Somah welcomed the participants.
For his part, the Minister told the participants that there are lot to be done especially when it comes to maintaining peace and security. As for Deputy Minister Cassell, she said that she was overwhelmed for fact that women are now standing up to speak for themselves, we can do more if we speak out together. She also said that she will do all that she can to make sure that the objectives of the Taskforce are met.
The National Gender and Security Sector Gender Consultant gave an overview of the Taskforce, the past project and its achievements.
Notwithstanding, several other participants made brief remarks, the Project Coordinator from UN Women, Hemlata Rai, provide details about the project and the latest progress it has made saying, “We are in the process of distributing the first installment to the Taskforce. The Secretarial has submitted the outcome of its needs assessment which is taken positively by the UN Women. The constructions of Peace Huts are among some of the many things that the project is undertaking”.
UNDP representative, Rai stated that her organization will provide the operational needs for the gender desks and training. A Delegate from the Swedish Embassy noted that they take Women Peace and Security to very important. A consultant from Medica Liberia briefly elaborated that his organization was into women career building project which is situated in the south east of Liberia and are also providing SGBV services.
Also speaking, the head of Voice of the Voiceless, Madame Frances Greaves, a civil society representative, spoke about their engagement at the level of the community working with the police to ensure that more female are recruited into the police and the AFL.
Bi- Monthly Coordination Meeting
Another essential feature of the taskforce is the bi-monthly meeting that is convened to appraise the activities of the taskforce.
In the reporting period, one monthly coordination meeting was held on the 31th of May 2018 shortly after the acquaintance meeting. The meeting brought together 19 participants mostly gender coordinators of the security sector and representatives from different institutions, and international partners to discuss the project and the role of the taskforce in mainstreaming gender in accordance with the international Human Rights Agenda of UN SCR 1325.
Development of Work Plan, M&E Plan and Budget
The Taskforce developed an administrative plan to implement activities of the project “Inclusive Security: Nothing for Us Without Us.” This is funded by the UN Peace Building Fund and jointly implemented by the UN Women, UNDP and IOM. It included a Work Plan, a Budget Breakdown, a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan and other activities plans.
The information outreach strategy is making inroads. The Taskforce public relations strategy hinges on the online media, especially regular uploading of news and information on both the Face-Book page (www.//web.facebook.com/gssntliberia), and Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/gendersecurity), while there is ongoing hoisting of GSSNT sponsored radio talk shows and airing of jingoes and dramas in five vernaculars, publication of press releases and articles in the various media, and this newsletter.
Facts About United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325
The United Nations Security Council in 2000 recognized the importance of protecting and promoting women and girls during crisis and their involvement in security, conflict prevention and peace building. Based on the need, the Resolution 1325 was adopted.
The Resolution 1325 calls for the inclusion of women in peace building processes and it is the first high level international policy document giving emphasis to women’s involvement in conflict resolution.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 is also the first resolution representing gender issues to be passed by the Security Council.
The UNSCR 1325 calls for the implementation of international
humanitarian law, human rights law and other basic human rights instruments to guarantee the protection and full participation of women and girls in peace processes.
It also requests member states to increase the representation of women at all levels of decision making for prevention, management and resolution of conflict.
To ensure practical and sustainable implementation of the UN SCR 1325, in 2009, the Government of Liberia (GOL) through collaborative efforts developed the Liberia National Action Plan (LNAP) for the implementation across Liberia.
During the development of the LNAP, the Government set the following goals: “Strengthen and develop prevention, response and protection policies, procedures and mechanisms that promote the human rights of women and girls and guarantee their security at both the national and the personal levels”; “Promote the design, development and institutionalization of economic, social and security policies that will empower women and girls to participate fully and effectively in Liberia’s peace building, reconstruction, recovery and development processes at all levels, including decision-making levels”; and “Strengthen the coordination and
coherence of gender mainstreaming activities in Liberia by raising awareness of the letter and intent of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security and implementing its underlying principles”.
The National Action Plan is divided into four pillars each containing several strategic issues and priority areas.
They are Protection, Prevention, Participation and Empowerment and Promotion.
GSSNT Sponsored Radio Talk Shows Heat Up
The Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT) sponsored Radio Talk Shows which is part of the public information outreach strategy is also yielding dividends as information dissemination is a prime driver in ensuring that news about all activities of the Taskforce gets out to stakeholders and the public in real time.
On Friday, June 29, 2018, two Gender Coordinators, Maude G. Somah of the Ministry of Justice and Edwina Carr of the Ministry of Justice appeared as discussants on the Truth Breakfast Show of Truth FM 96.1 to discuss the topic: “ The Role of the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce”.
The talk show afforded many listeners opportunities to make various points with some calling for women in security institutions in Liberia to be encouraged rather than discouraged. In variably, they said women should be given a chance for promotion. Deputy Liberia Immigration Service Commission, Madam Asatu Bah Kenneth was amongst the many callers to the show that congratulated the Taskforce for organizing the Talk Show and encouraged women in security to be motivated by looking at other astute Liberia women braved have brave the storms admits all odds in the workplace of security institutions and rose up to top leadership positions in various security institutions in Liberia.
On Tuesday, July 3, 2018, Gender Focal, Siata Lassanna of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), Victoria Freeman of the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR), and Deputy Gender Focal of the Liberia National Fire Service, George Kerkula appeared on the ELBC 99.9 Super Morning Show and discussed the topic: “ The importance of Women in the Security Institutions”. The topic is intended to raise an awareness on the Liberia Action Plan for the Security Council Resolution 1325 and to establish a platform in order to advocate for the promotion of women to leadership positions; increasing women representation to a minimum of 30% through all the recruitment processes, and to discuss ways to promote equal opportunities for women in the security sector institutions.
Callers to the show said the issue of gender equality especially promoting women within the security sectors is very important.
They said the Talk Show is a key factor for those who want to excel within the sectors. Almost all the callers thanked the discussants for their splendid explanations on the important of women in the security institutions in Liberia.
They also called on the national government to use the constitutional backing to support the efforts of gender mainstreaming in Liberia.
The talk shows are being organized by the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce which is a collaboration of the three ministries, the Ministry of Justice, Defense and Gender, Children and Social Protection under the project “Inclusive Security: Nothing for Us Without Us.” funded by the UN Peace Building Fund and jointly implemented by the UN Women, UNDP and IOM.
Fire Service Gender Unit Launches Gender Sensitization Awareness
-As LNFS Director Vows to Promote “Any Woman That Is Qualified”
Members of the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT) attending the Taskforce bi-monthly meeting on July 12, 2018 gave a standing ovation and applauded the Gender Unit at the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), staff members including men and women for voluntarily embarking on a 10 days ‘Gender Sensitization Awareness’ for employees of the entity.
The Taskforce members including Coordinators and Gender Focal were cheerful about Fire Service Gender Unit launching of the Gender awareness campaign on July 9, 2018 saying that such will ensure that qualitative delivery of services is at the workplace of the entity.
Speaking on behalf of the coordinators, National Gender Advisor, Maude G. Somah said Fire Service Gender Unit members headed by Col. Dennes D. Z. Johnson, Chief of Gender Mainstream have demonstrated to all on how they are upbeat and are eager to drive the different initiatives put in operation to ensure gender issues are put on the agenda of security sector institutions.
The 10 days Gender Awareness focused on gender development at the LNFS purposely for all employees assigned in Montserrado County and understanding of the United Nation Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
It was held between Monday July 9, 2018 – Wednesday July 18, 2018 under the theme: “Nothing For Us without Us” and covered the respective units of the LNFS in the county.
The senior leadership of the entity, including Fire Service Director, Alex K. Dickson, Assistant Directors and Supervisors attended and interacted with the National Gender Advisor of the GSSNT, Maude G. Somah who addressed the opening session. In her opening address she called on the senior leadership and members of the LNFS to take lead responsibilities in ensuring the promotion of gender mainstreaming at the entity in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Liberia National Action Plan.
Speaking at the program, Fire Service Director, Alex K. Dickson thanked the Gender Unit for organizing the awareness exercise. He said there is a serious need for gender equality at the Fire Service because, according to him, from his observation he has not seen a woman serving in top position like a Fire Service director.
He said under his administration, 30% of the workforce will be women adding “We will promote any woman that is qualified”
Director Dickson said “if a woman is appointed as commander or supervisor, the deputy to that woman will be a man and if a man is appointed as commander or supervisor, the deputy to that man will be woman. There will always be one man one woman.”
He encouraged women to step up and qualify themselves for leadership positions at the LNFS. He appealed to those in relevant authority to consider appointing a woman to any one of the vacant assistant and deputy director’s posts at Fire Service.
During the program it was observed how the LNFS senior leadership were receptive to the ideas and concept of UNSCR 1325 while the Gender Unit at the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), staff members including men and women are upbeat and are eager to drive the different initiatives put in operation to ensure gender issues are put on the agenda of security sector institutions.
Meanwhile, with the establishment of the Gender Unit office at the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) to help implement its programs and activities, employees of the entity have now taken the responsibility upon their shoulders with fast moving efforts to ensure that they advance equality at the workplace.
The Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT) established the Gender Unit at the Fire Service as part of an aggressive drive to put gender issues on the front burner at the institution.
The office which was opened during the Taskforce last project period has been furnished with an office desk, chairs, desktop computers, WIFI Hotspot, stationeries and other office material. The donation of the items is part of the Taskforce endeavor to empower all security Sector gender units.
GSSNT Members Capacity Strengthened
About 40 participants of the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT) members, including Gender Focal Persons were on Thursday, July 19, 2018 drilled in a one day capacity building workshop that equipped them with the basic knowledge and skills to enable them effectively carry out their duties and responsibilities required for the implementation of UNSCR 1325’s National Action Plan of Liberia.
The workshop which was held under the theme, “Empower to Promote Gender Equality in Liberia” supported by the Gender Unit of the Ministry of National Defense and facilitated by Jangai Lisa Gbemie, Gender Consultant, GSSNT, focused on the organization and holding of meetings, report writing, inter-ministerial and institutional collaboration, and Liberia National Action Plan to implement UNSCR 1325 and NSSL gender orientation.
It brought together stakeholders of the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce in the Conference Room of the Ministry of Defense.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Deputy Minister of Defense for Administration of the Ministry of Defense, Mr. T. Olandrus Dickson, congratulated the Gender Taskforce for organizing the workshop on gender mainstreaming. He said the Ministry of National Defense place serious emphasis on gender mainstreaming especially on empowerment.
He said in the history of Liberia and the future of the country, there are fast moving issues unfolding one of which was the appointment of the first female Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
“We have made important strides in promoting gender equality. The Ministry of National Defense is also gender focused”, Minister Dickson told the participants.
During the workshop, Mrs. Gbemie said it is compelling that skills are built and knowledge increase because according to her building the capacity of Taskforce Members signals collective acknowledgement of the importance of applying technical knowledge and skills to effectively implement the National Action Plan, thus supporting the sharing of information and promoting commitment to gender equality in Liberia.
She said this training, obviously, forms an integral part of the actions to support the achievement of the project outputs it is compelling that skills are built and knowledge increased.
Madam Gbemie said the training addresses three main objectives including to increase Taskforce members knowledge with the requisite skills to convene regular coordination meetings, prepare meeting agendas, record and draft meeting minutes; to enable gender advisors and focal persons to write comprehensive reports on a monthly basis and to empower the Gender Coordinators and other taskforce members with the requisite knowledge and skills that will enable them to implement the National Action Plan and National Security Strategy.
The expected outcomes of the workshop are to increase technical know-how for inter-ministerial and institutions collaboration and coordination, increased knowledge and skills in report writing, and organizing and holding of coordination meetings, improved ability and consciousness to develop and submit monthly reports in a timely manner, increased awareness and knowledge about the LNAP and NSS gender component.
“More Needs to Be Done to Sustain Peace, Security”
… Justice Minister
The Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Jr., has disclosed that much more needs to be done for the maintenance and sustenance of peace and security in Liberia.
Min. Dean made the assertion when he delivered welcome remarks in the Conference Room of the Ministry of Justice at an acquaintance meeting of the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT).
Min. Dean said, since the 2003 Peace Agreement in Accra, Ghana, Liberians have demonstrated their determination for peace and development, but, with the government taking over of the security responsibility from the United Nations Mission in Liberia, it is a hard fact that everyone needs to accept that more efforts have to be applied especially adhering to the rule of law to ensure that Liberia maintain the support for the sustainability of peace, security and development.
Min. Dean commended the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce and international partners for their relentless efforts towards integrating gender in the security sector reform to comply with international and regional laws as well as development after the Liberian civil war but there are still more to be done to sustain pace and security.
Min. Dean told members of the Gender and Security Taskforce comprising of all state and non state security actors as well as international partners that the Ministry of Justice is committed to continue its cooperation and support to the Taskforce activities and ensure that its current project, ‘Inclusive Security: Nothing for Us Without Us’ which aims to implement Liberia’s peace and security agenda, by advancing women’s human rights and engendering the ongoing security sector reform processes.
Also speaking at the meeting, Deputy Justice Minister for Administration and Public Safety, Hon. Juah Nancy Cassell said she is overwhelmed for the fact that that women are now standing up to speak for themselves.
“We can do more if we speak out together”, Minister Cassell pointed out and continued, “I am going to do all that I can do to make sure the objectives of this Taskforce are met”.
Min. Cassell who jointly chaired the acquaintance meeting alone with the National Gender Advisor, Maude M. Somah, (who is also the Gender Coordinator of the Ministry of Justice), said, with the help of her boss she will make sure that the Ministry of Justice is gender sensitive.
The objective of the Gender Taskforce acquaintance meeting was to ensure that all incoming state and non state security actors are acquainted with the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce and its functionality.
Besides, the meeting was also intended to give briefings on the completed UNMIL and UN-Women funded pilot project “Supporting the Building of a Gender Responsive Security Sector and to discuss the current joint Un Women, UNDP and IOM project ‘Inclusive Security: Nothing for Us Without Us’.
In a brief overview of the Taskforce activities, Jangai Lisa Gbemie, National Gender Consultant of GSSNT Secretariat said the successful creation of the Taskforce and the establishment gender offices at various security sector institutions is a product of the strong collaboration of the three ministries including Justice, Defense and Gender, Children and Social Protection and support from UNMIL and the UN-Women who are providing dedicated support to each of the national security institutions involved.
She said the creation of the Taskforce and establishment of gender offices are also a demonstration of both national and UN commitment to the building of a gender- responsive security sector in Liberia.
Mrs. Gbemie told the gathering that despite the successful implementation of the pilot project, challenges remain however, especially in the establishment of internal mechanisms to address harassment and discrimination.
The GSSNT Gender Consultant said the Taskforce and its international partners are working together effectively to promote gender equality in Liberia.
She recounted that during the Taskforce 50 day’s pilot project rolled out with support from UNMIL and UN-Women, over 50 women and men were trained in Women, Peace and Security Studies while 30 others were trained in Information Technology.
In her remarks at the meeting, UN-Women Project Coordinator, Madam Hamalita Rai used the occasion to praise members of the Gender Taskforce for their splendid participation in the recent field assessment mission across the country to set up a new Peace Huts in the counties.
The field assessment was conducted in consultation with members of the Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce Secretariat and representatives from the Ministry of Defense, Gender, Children and
Social Protection along with the UN-Women, IOM and UNDP in Nimba, Lofa, Maryland and Cape Mount counties repectively.
The UN-Women project Coordinator assured that the peace huts will be built as its construction is part of ongoing project priorities for four new Peace Huts in border counties, especially in border communities without Peace Huts to complement the current needs of gender responsive security sector.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitation (BCR) Gender Focal, Victoria Freeman who was upbeat and appreciative about the Taskforce programs, said in the past, female officers at the Prison Compound were not more than five, but with help and mentorship of the Taskforce, they were able to mobilize 100 female officers in their own capacity.
Madam Freeman disclosed that the BCR can now also boast of five female officers as substantive superintendents while two other female officers are presently on international peace keeping mission.
Also speaking during the meeting, Blessing Bonner, the Gender Focal Person at the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms, said as a result of the mentorship, gender issues are on the agenda at the high decision making level at the Small Arm Commission.
She appealed for the establishment of gender office and logistical supports to enhance gender mainstreaming at the commission.
Other representatives of the Taskforce that made brief presentations were Captain Hawa Kamara, Gender Focal, Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Edwinda Carr, Gender Coordinator, Ministry of Defense, a representative from the Liberia National Police (LNP).
Others were representatives from the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), National Human Right Commission, the UN Women, UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden, Medical Liberia and the Voice of the Voiceless.