Anti-SEA Champions in UNMIL - “Together We Stand Against SEA”
Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) is an issue of serious concern for peacekeeping missions.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has engaged in robust SEA prevention measures, including outreach, awareness-raising, sensitization and training on the Organization’s zero tolerance policy with respect to SEA and is committed to preventing and sanctioning perpetrators of SEA.
In 2015, the Government of Liberia, recognizing the major challenge that SEA posed, commissioned a study that concluded that sexual exploitation and sexual harassment was rife in schools. To address this issue, on 9 December 2015, the UNMIL Conduct and Discipline Team (CDT), in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoG), launched a national campaign against SEA, with the theme Together We Stand Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. The launching ceremony was presided over by SRSG Farid Zarif and the Minister of Gender Julia Duncan Cassell.
This national anti-SEA campaign emphasized the joint responsibility and commitment to combat SEA, individually, collectively and institutionally. It called upon the UN family, government institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local communities, and men and women to actively engage in combating SEA, including by volunteering as “Anti-SEA Champions”.
Anti-SEA Champions lead community-level prevention efforts, receive complaints, and facilitate complainant/victim assistance and support through established referral mechanisms. They also provide information regarding the referral pathway, the consequences of SEA, and SEA reporting mechanisms for UNMIL and the MoG. They have also initiated partnerships and networks with other organizations in the counties and are an integral part of the Gender-based Violence Task Force. Additionally, the Champions have been posting anti-SEA posters at strategic locations in the counties and are participating bi-monthly on the UNMIL radio talk-show.
As a result of the joint campaign, 237 individuals from the government (including Liberian National Police’s Women and Children Protection Sections), UNMIL, CSOs, and women’s groups, as well as religious and traditional leaders answered this call. Anti-SEA Champions were trained and established in eight counties, notably: Montserrado, Bomi, Margibi, Bong, Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Gedeh and Lofa. UNMIL CDT has since begun training more Anti-SEA Champions in the remaining seven counties.
These Anti-SEA Champions have positively contributed to efforts to combat SEA by disseminating anti-SEA messages and providing first-hand information to community members. Through their efforts, in many cases, victims of SEA have begun receiving immediate assistance through referral services.
As UNMIL draws down, the Anti-SEA Champions will serve as the key vehicle to combat SEA throughout the country. Currently, Anti-SEA Champions report quarterly to UNMIL CDT, through the MoG. MoG Gender Coordinators serve as heads of Anti-SEA Champions in each county.