Whenever there is a conflict universally, women are the most affected victims because they are usually raped, tortured and harassed. Sometimes many die while others stay alive to tell the stories so other wounded hearts can be healed from their friend’s testimonies.
The fourteen-year civil war in Liberia has made a lot of women stronger, which has added to their strength before their disasters occurred during 1989 – 2003. It is known that women are the backbone to every society; they support their partners and contribute to society by sending their children to school and training them while their husbands go to work.
Some women in Liberia suffered bitter experiences after the war that left them completely traumatized while others died because they could not be reached in time for counseling. Women in Monrovia were lucky to have benefited from most trauma healing programs established by some international and local NGO’s. Just imagine, women living in rural Liberia that have no access to road facilities for some trauma healing groups to reach them and hear their stories!
Recently an analysis of women survivors of the Liberian conflict from 1989-2003 was done by three women groups including “Isis Wicce” (an International partner who are responsible to the, Linking of women internationally); Women in Peacebuilding Network (WINEP – a women’s program) of the West African Network for Peace Building-Liberia (WANEP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender and Development. These women and international partners went into four of the sixteen counties in Liberia (Lofa, Bong, Maryland and Grand Kru) and identified some women survivors at the verge of losing hope.
One of the survivors from Maryland, in the southeast told her ordeal before a large audience at the Monrovia City Hall yesterday. The victim explained that she was raped several times by five rebels. She said when the rebel hit Maryland late 1990, she, her mother and children decided to go to the border of Ivory Coast, and while passing through the bushes of Pleebo District by way of the short cut, they fell into a trap of rebels who told her ‘to service’ them (have sex) or they would kill her children if she had refused.
Sobbing profusely, she said “they told me to naked myself before my children and the first rebel commanded my son to hold up my legs apart for him to enter or my son would die. So he did it because I didn’t want any of my children killed, and after he got through, he told my son to wipe me dry which he did. Just imagine how I felt when my son looked into my private?”
The lady believed to be middle aged further said after the second rebel came, he told her daughter to wipe his sexual organ after he had finished “having me. I beg saying, ‘my people I beg your for mercy’ but the head said if we leave you we will kill your children. I lay still until they finished because I wanted to carry my children with me. My old mother was crying after they finished, so one of the rebel told another to waste sand in my mother’s eye because if she could not see she wouldn’t have caused noise, and from that day my ma got blind because of me. She is living with me and is 91 years old, why did she have to suffer because of me? Another victim from Lofa said eight men including her brother raped her in Lofa during the LURD invasion in 2003. “When they came into Foyah, they killed my father because they said he had dragon and practiced witch craft act. After they finished killing my father they also killed my mother and instructed me to put my dead mother’s head on my laps and pet her. I was told to tell my dead mother, ‘Old Ma don’t feel bad, that the war.’
“They then tore off my clothes and raped me one after another and told my brother to have me, when he refused, they threatened to kill him. And so I beg him to, which he did because I didn’t want them to kill my only living relative at the time. My brother and I do not speak up till present, when he sees me, he goes another place as I also do; we are not on good term.”
The lady who said she has a son, disclosed that after they finished with her the rebels pushed a torchlight into her private parts that left her bleeding, she could not walk several years due to the damage caused by they rape. She narrated that she used a wheel chair but started walking by herself recently but usually with the help of others; adding, “I’m still suffering from the rape.
To peepee (urinate), I can still bleed.”
After her story she asked for assistance to take further treatment and send her son to school. Her testimony touched Vice President Joseph Boikai who went to represent the President who had left for the USA. V.P. Boikai vowed to support her and the son’s education until he reaches college.
Cecelia Doniwoly, on behalf of the women group said according to statistics taken from the four counties researched, there are “over one million cases” of women survivors; of which some are willing to speak while others are not talking. She termed it dangerous because other women without help would die from their trauma as there are still more cases in the remaining counties not reached.
She disclosed that one million Euros has been donated by EU to help support the psychical and mental strength of women in Liberia, saying “nothing happens in Liberia if a woman is not in the center of it.”