COMBATTING INCIDENTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN LIBERIA
The Liberia Citizen-Government Engagement Project (CGEP) started July 2014, closing the communications and engagement gap between government and citizens.
The project was piloted in two counties —- Grand Cape Mount and Margibi, in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, women’s and community groups and citizens. The substantive focus of the project has been to strengthen the ability of government to effectively respond to citizen reports of incidences of child sexual abuse.
The project has demonstrated that through the use of technology and a well-structured two-way communications process (a feedback loop), government can now effectively communicate with their citizens and citizens can increase their contributions to the development and implementation of government policies and programs.
We created a low-tech citizen-government-citizen feedback loop mechanism that is currently rendering the following services in the country:
- Give citizens a means to report cases of abuse to nearby Child Welfare Centers (CWCs), who immediately summarises the case and SMS it via any mobile phone to frontline system at the local Gender Ministry Office for referrals.
- Strengthen the local MoGCSP to effectively address issue of abuse, keep all cases and data received safe and close the communication gap between citizens and government.
- Use the Internet connectivity at the local gender office to ease the CGC’s stress of traveling to Monrovia to submit monthly report.
- Use the media to create awareness and amplify incidents of abuse and put pressure on government to respond.
HOW THE FEEDBACK MECHANISM WORKS
The fundamental purpose of our innovation is to close the communication gap and improve collaboration between citizens and government to address incidents of sexual abuse in the two counties.
The fundamental purpose of our innovation is to close the communication gap and improve collaboration between citizens and government to address incidents of sexual abuse in the two counties. The major stakeholders in the feedback loop are (a) citizens who file complaints (b) Child Welfare Committee (CWC) members who are based throughout the county; (c) the County Gender Coordinator who represents the Ministry of Gender; and (d) local agencies to whom the complaint may be referred for action, including the Ministry of Gender itself, the local Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and the police.
When sexual abuse occurs the victims of the abuse or family members use an SMS text hotline to immediately report the case to a nearby Child Welfare Committee member, who records the case on his or her mobile phone and sends it directly to the County Gender Office. This way, victims and Child Welfare Committee members do not have to travel long distances from where they live to the county gender office to report the case.
When the report is received and recorded on a database by the County Gender Officer, it automatically sends acknowledgement to the reporter that the message has been received. If the case is severe and require immediate action, the County Gender Coordinator or the Child Welfare Officer, immediately refers the victim to a nearby clinic or hospital for medication and checkup, while the perpetrator is arrested for investigation.
Any case of reported sexual abuse is referred by the County Gender Officer to three major agencies involved in the referral pathway—Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry of Justice (Police, Magistrates, County Attorney and Court) and Ministry of Health. The two-way feedback loop technology helps them deal with and coordinate cases of sexual abuse within the county and send regular electronic reports to Ministry of Gender headquarters.
Whatever actions get taken against perpetrators are reported back to victims and others who filed the complaint. This way, citizens are fully aware of how government handles and treats cases of sexual abuse.
Local Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in our pilot counties – Cape Mount and Margibi, are currently benefiting from our innovation that has helped to reduce incidents of sexual abuse greatly since 2014. Our system reported 35 cases of sexual abuse in the two counties and followed all cases progress at court with Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.