Monrovia – Medica Mundial, a women’s rights advocacy group based in southeastern Liberia has begun working in communities in Montserrado and Margibi Counties 10 years after the nongovernmental organization started its work in Liberia.
Targeting 12 communities in the two counties, the BMZ Project supports women and girls in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, legal services and psychosocial counseling to survivors of sexual and gender based violence.
The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation.
In 2015 Medica Liberia took over the responsibilities of Medica Mundial Liberia that had worked in River Gee, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties since 2006.
Medica Mundial was founded by in 1993 by Monika Hauser, a gynecologist and 20 of her colleagues in the health field during the civil war in Bosnia, southeastern Europe.
Launching the two-county project on Friday, the Project Officer of Lena Reul, Project Officer Liberia, Iraq/Syria of Medica Mundial Germany said the project would make it possible for the reduction of the violence against women and girls and to enhance the service of public service providers and civil society organizations for survivors of violence.
“We are also very happy that we are now able to extend the services that we have been providing in the southeast of the country to Montserrado and Margibi Counties, where it is also a dire need for GBV services, Reul told the launch in the King Gray community in Paynesville.
“We are happy to broaden the network, to strengthen community-based support for communities to prevent violence and protect women and girls at community level but also to enable them to access quality services.”
She said Medica Mundial had successfully implemented the project in the southeast, stressing that the organization was committed to providing sustainable support through partners.
She underscored the organization’s belief in partnering with other local NGOs and community-based organizations and building their capacity.
For her part, the Head of Programs at Medica Liberia Joseph Tengbeh said the BMZ project was inspired by the NGO’s collaboration with communities and partners during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Ebola killed more than 4,800 people in Liberia between 2014 when the epidemic reached its peak and earlier this year when Liberia experienced a resurgence of the disease.
It is generally accepted that the disease exposed the weaknesses of the health system, including meager infrastructure and a weak disease control mechanism.
However, there have been many lessons said to have been taught the region by the epidemic. And Tengbeh said Medica Liberia also learned a great deal from the dreaded virus.
“We actually worked with structures in the communities and then we saw that in fact to put Ebola under control it was an effort from all community members, most especially the water, sanitation and hygiene (WAS) team that would see actually who was coming in and going out the community,” Tengbeh told reporter.
She said the needs of Monrovia were so great so they had to extend the program to the capital and the midland county.
She said the decision to target Montserrado and Margibi communities was also due to a resounding success of the project in the southeast.
Tengbeh said it was also not difficult getting the program started in the communities in the two counties as Medica Mundial was making using its partnership with locals.
“We didn’t invent anything. We just found groups that are existing,” she said.
To maximize the impact of the project, Tengbeh said Medica Liberia would begin from communities with which the NGO was familiar, establishing clusters in them.
Some of the communities targeted in the two counties include, Gaye Town, Yarkpee Town, Peace Island, Rock Field, Rock Crusher community, Zoeglar, Kissi Town and King Gray. Others are Thinkers Village, VOA community, Rock Hill and R-2.
Also speaking at the launch, the head of the Women and Protection Division at the Liberia National Police, Laurina Kangar, pledged fullest support to the Medica Liberia.
Her colleague, Felice Johnson, Chief of Gender, said her office was looking forward to forming a good working relationship with Medica Liberia in the protection of women and girls.
Oretha Lah-Bangurah of Girls for Change, an adolescent girls group that provides support to adolescent girls and their children, said her group was very happy to have Medica Liberia as a partner to work with.
“We are proud because we are all gearing towards the same goals—empowering women in order to have them as productive citizens in the society,” she said.
Over the period, Medica Liberia has been supporting women and girls who experienced sexualized gender based violence through its trauma sensitive holistic approach.
This approach comprises psychosocial, legal and sexual reproductive health rights intervention, thus leading to the establishment of the three components in the program structure.
Medica Liberia works directly with a protection network.
This network includes SGBV support group include five to six women who are first contact persons for Medica Liberia within a community, local community leaders and government line ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Justice and Liberia National Police.
Under the psychosocial component, survivors of SGBV are counseled to regain mental and emotional stability, their self-esteem and resilience to live a normal life.
Also awareness is conducted as well as advocacies.
Under the department of health, advice is provided to survivors to seek medical attention. Health clubs are established for girls on reproductive health.
Under legal department, legal education on human rights laws and seeking victims’ legal redress. Work with other NGOs and civil society groups in the sector.