Strength of a Woman
Living with a family of three; Helen Gaye is petty trader in Tugbelee Town Grand Gedeh County, South Eastern Liberia. With her little knowledge on women rights, Helen helps create awareness on women’s rights and empowerment. Through her hard work Helen was able to organize a SGBV support group in her community. Since 2008, Helen has been working to improve her community together with other strong women. She has managed to set up weekly women rights meetings where women learn their basic rights as human being and as women.
According to Helen, domestic violence was never seen as a crime in their community until the women of Tugbelee Town(Helen Village) stood up against every form of violence against women. “Most women in this town (Tugbelee Town) suffered different forms of violence at the hands of men especially wife battering and verbal insults”. Our husbands tell us dirty things in the presence of our children she lamented and embarrassed us in the presence of visitors.
She mobilized a strong team of women to asked the town chief to help pass laws that will prevent domestic violence especially wife battering. “we went to the town chief and told him that our husband were beating on us every day and publically insulting women even if the woman is not his wife so we need something done to stop the constant abuse” they appeal to the town chief but according to Helen the town chief he laugh at them because he is also a perpetrator of violence,
The women insisted and brought up the issue at every given opportunity, they boycotted town meetings as strike action for their appeal and one day the town chief called them to a meeting with the women. “So what you people want me to do” was his opening statement. “We want you to punish men that beat and abuse their wives” the women answered. “The chief mocking said ok you can beat them back” and dismissed the meeting. Helen and her group were angry but did not give up. Their strike continued this time to refuse to do any farm work and the matter drew the chief attention again. In another meeting the chief knew the women were very angry so this time he approached the matter with seriousness. “What do you really want” the chief asked. We want you to stop our husband from hitting on us.
The issue of domestic violence was a serious problem. Men would hit on their wives on daily basis, there was an incidence where a woman arm was broken by her husband and the community did nothing to the man. So the women designed new strategies and ways to approach the chief because “So we went back to the chief with new ideas on what he could to violent men in the community”
The chief told Helen and her group to call the entire community to a meeting and discuss their concern of punishing perpetrator of violence against women at a local level. When the issue was raised in the meeting, all the men oppose to the idea because they said it would be making women more disrespectful to their husbands. The first meeting ended with arguments about why a woman was chairing the meeting.
Then the chief reschedule the meeting this time he volunteer to chair the meeting himself. Most of the men refuse to attend the second meeting calling it rubbish. Only seven men attended and there were still disagreements on the floor so the chief ask them to vote on the issue. “Because few men attended the meeting, we won the vote” and the body agreed that any man who insults his wife in public or beat on her will cook for the women of the village to eat. The chief agreed and made a proclamation that any man who violates this law will be made to pay penalty thereof.
Since the laws were passed in 2009 till today the law is still strong and the incidences of domestic violence reduce to a minimal level. People in neighboring villages admire the courage of the women in the village and adopted the laws to be apply to their villages. Now the entire community is applying the laws which made it very easy to reduce violence against women in entire community.
Strength of a Woman