Musu M. Mulbah’s excitement was tangible when she was announced as the People’s Choice winner of the Integrity Icon Liberia campaign in 2019. Her energy filled the room. She has been a nurse for 9 years, and currently serves in the Sex and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) unit in Bong County where she works with vulnerable women and girls who’ve experienced various forms of abuse, including rape, statutory rape and assault. 

Musu was responsible in part for the creation of the centre, personally advocating for the facility with the Medical Director and administrator in the region. SGBV remains a pervasive problem in post-conflict Liberia and the country’s under-resourced courts system and health care facilities struggle to keep up with cases and delivering the necessary support to victims. During an opening address for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violencethe Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection confirmed that there was an increase in SGBV cases in Liberia in 2019. 

The long-standing nurse has defined views about the meaning of integrity. “Integrity for me means doing your work right, and not taking any bribes. (It also means that) you shouldn’t compromise your job for anything – do it right without corruption.”

Her colleague and fellow nurse, Tryphene C. Johnson, also hailed Musu for her role in fighting to seek justice for victims of abuse, testifying against abusers in many instances. “Musu was the one who initiated the one-stop centre at CB Dunbar Maternity Hospital,” Johnson said.

Musu explains: “Before the one-stop centre could be established, I stood firm. I went to the medical director and administrator and they told me they don’t have space. I said you have to find space because we need to help the victims  We need to seek justice for the victims. “We stood our ground until they came here to establish the one-stop centre,” she recalls.

Musu, who is clearly committed to her work, expressed that she was very surprised when she found out that she was nominated – she didn’t know that her work and commitment to integrity was seen by others by others. The realization that her community is watching her, and are aware of what she’s doing at her clinic is a big source of motivation. Her nomination was unexpected, but she now hopes to do more to improve integrity and service delivery.

Her commitment to integrity in the civil service clearly goes beyond her own work. She speaks up when she observes corruption. In Liberia’s health sector, charging patients for services that should be free is a serious challenge, and Musu holds her colleagues accountable for these practices. “I tell them if you get $1 you should use it for the intended purpose,” she says. While one cannot say that this is curbing corruption, they are certainly more cautious knowing that they have an honest civil servant in their midst. She says that highlighting people like her creates role models in the sector, and others will strive to do the right thing too.  

Integrity starts at home, and Musu believes that her daily contact with SGBV victims positions her to talk to them about being integrous individuals, and she hopes that they can inspire others in their homes and communities to think differently about corruption in Liberia. – Cheri-Leigh Erasmus