LEGAL Celebrates 10 Years of Advancing Human Rights in Liberia

By Jennifer Kuwa Henshaw, Global Fellow from Liberia

We recently celebrated our 10-year anniversary which marked the progress we have made in advancing human rights for LGBT individuals in Liberia. We also used the occasion to honor the contribution of our supporters and to share our hopes for the future. The anniversary celebration took place on 26th January 2022 and brought together local and international stakeholders. Reflecting on the occasion, one of our team members remarked:

“This was our chance to step back and look at the past and present activities. To learn from where we started, where we are, and where we are going.”

We started the Lesbian and Gay Association of Liberia (LEGAL) in 2012 to advocate for the rights of marginalized groups through awareness raising activities while providing direct support to those most-affected. For ten years, we have stood firmly as the voice of sexual minority groups in Liberia, speaking against discrimination, injustices, stigmatization, violence and abuse. We also work with stakeholders to help provide economic empowerment, health services, access to justice and education, all in addition to promoting the fundamental principles of human rights.

During the anniversary, we shared the following accomplishments with guests and stakeholders who joined us:

  • Established the Protection Focal Persons at the Nine Police zones in Monrovia and Nimba county
  • Strengthened mechanisms for Institutional capacity building
  • Partnered with CSOs, Government line Ministries, NGOs, Partners, Foreign Missions, the Religious and Traditional Communities
  • Strengthened relationships with Donors who continued to support our work
  • Assigned Peers and Outreach Officers at the Community level who continue to document cases of abuse or violence committed against LBT women, girls, sex workers, drugs users, people living with complicated health issues and people living with disabilities
  • Improved Community’s awareness on human rights advocacy and the referral path way in terms of access to health and justice
  • Trained 1,183 people of whom 75% are community members. Some of the trainees are still actively involved to date
  • Hate cases recorded are 93; 52 from Montserrado, Margibi 7, River Cess 21, Lofa 1, Grand Gedeh 1, Bong 1 . Cases ranging from rape, murder, GBV, SGBV, family neglect, child neglect, child trafficking, stigma and discrimination, kidnaping, sex trade, FGM, burglary and natural disaster
  • Project locations have increased and we are now operating in 16 locations beyond Monrovia

The event was also an opportunity for us to thank our partners for continuing to support our mission. We issued certificates of appreciation to honor their contributions.

Despite having made huge progress since we started, LEGAL continues to face limitations that make our advocacy work less effective in addressing the magnitude of issues faced by marginalized groups. Some of the challenges we still face include limited funding capacity, limited partnership opportunities with the religious figures, existing stigma and limiting cultural beliefs, lack of access to basic health care services, hate related crimes against members of the LGBTIQs community, and the existing national law which discriminate LGBTIQs (the Penal Code Section 14.73,74 etc).

As we focus attention to the future, LEGAL plans to enhance the protection and access to basic health services, and human rights services for sexual minorities women, girls and other vulnerable groups. We also hope to increase advocacy and sexual reproductive education at community level. Our plan is to engage the following counties: Montserrado, Gbapolu, River Cess, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, Mary Land, Grand Kru, Sinoe, Gbapoplu, Bomi, Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba, Bong, and Margibi. This hope informs the core of our strategic plan 2022/2025 where we hope to continue addressing discrimination, violence, abuse, hate crimes, and stigmatization through increased community participation, awareness raising, empowermeent activities and human rights protection.

We also conducted Know Your Status Campaign on HIV and AIDS prevention, referral, treatment and stay on treatment campaign and awareness.

We also conducted training for Law Enforcement Officers for them to understand the rights of marginalized groups through the Human Right based approach through Solidarity Sisters (SoSNoL) who are the protection organization for the Marginalized groups in Liberia.

We also visited the Monrovia Prison Center and distributed Food and Non - Food Items for the inmates at the Prison Center.

We also reach out to survivals that was brutalized by an ex Military guy that said that he has a vision for God saying that he should kill all Gay men in Liberia. We also conducted a one day meeting with lawyers to have a network that they will be representing LGBTIQ members in Liberia whenever they have cases at court level with the support from ISLA.

For LEGAL To be successful in implementing such a strategic plan, we are going to need support from all our stakeholders. We are going to require USD 500,000 to implement the project for the next 3 years. Additionally, we need help in developing partnerships with religious and traditional leaders, support to repeal the law that discriminates against members of the LGBTIQs community, support to conduct a mapping study of the LGBTIQs, sex workers, drugs users in 15 counties to understand their aspirations and personnel capacity building support.

We believe that by working together we can safeguard the rights of minority groups in Liberia and beyond. It starts with Me and You!