A Small Death; A Global Voice


To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.
-Thomas Campbell

Back in April, as a way to put my small, small words behind a project (and a Kickstarter) that I dearly believe in, I interviewed Jessica Vale about her time in Liberia working on the documentary Small Small Thing, which told the story of Olivia Zinnah, her mother and Liberia’s culture of rape and witchcraft.

Recently, the Small Small Thing team sent out a difficult email via their successful Kickstarter Campaign site; Olivia had died from the same rape-related complications which had brought her to the Liberian hospital on the day she met Jess and the team.

With Olivia’s death the cost of lives and quality of life caused by a culture that either shrugs or looks the other way, rose again. Infuriatingly, “data collected by the Ministry of Gender and Development in 2012 shows…an increase in child rape.” Any civilization that is not outraged by a self-characterization of increased child rape does not deserve to call itself a civilization, for it is anything but civilized.

Yes, I’m mad. But I’m not alone. “Olivia’s death has caused quite a lot of press, more and more every day,” the team said. “People are starting to take notice, and speak out for her. Read through the articles and please share them with others. That’s the best way to keep this story going.”

Well, when Small Small Thing needed money and exposure to keep the project alive, I did my small part. Now, I will do the same. I’ve listed the articles mentioned below, gave credit where it was listed and admittedly cherry-picked the most shocking bits to encourage you to read more. Click, read, share. Keep the story going.

Ebony Magazine by Michael Arceneaux

“On December 20, 2012, [Olivia] died from the long-term systemic complications spurred by her sexual assault. She was only 13…she had only received traditional healing—described as including “herbs and sorcery.” She was not taken to the doctor, nor were police called.”

Olivia has died “…leaving the rest of us to make sure that the culture responsible for her passing be dealt a fatal blow.”

The Informer Liberia by Marcus S. Zoleh

The Ministry of Gender & Development said “it is saddened by the recent death of twelve year-old little Olivia Zinna Jallah” but “The culprit is yet to face trial”

“It is inexcusable and disheartening that cases of rape of children are rampant in Liberia; this we believe, sends a message of a feeling of impunity among perpetrators that there will be no serious consequences to their devilish action,” Zoleh reported, and further urged that, the children are not the only ones who are in dire need. “The current state of the mother of the twelve year-old girl is unbearable and needs urgent attention.”

Front Page Africa by Henry Karmo

“Olivia’s mother feared her family would shun her if she refused their desire to settle the matter without police, the ministry said.”

“At the funeral service for Olivia, the Children’s Parliament of Liberia in their tribute condemned the act that led the child to an early grave describing it as ‘complete wickedness…we want justice for the death of our colleague. We are not prepare to see other girls be raped and died while they go free,’” they stated.

Indie Wire by Tambay A. Obenson

“In December 2012, Olivia was rushed to JFK with a bowel obstruction. Dr. Jallah was unable to get approval for emergency surgery. Olivia’s condition worsened and U.S. doctors insisted Olivia receive an operation to save her life. Days later, Olivia finally undergoes a colostomy surgery, but it was too late. She died two days later at 13.”

“According to UN statistics in 2012, rape is still the #1 crime in Liberia…Small Small Thing is the result of investigations by the filmmakers, revealing what they call ‘an intricate web of corruption, adventure and hope.’”

Stop Rape in Conflict

“According to the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development, Olivia was the fourth girl to die of rape-related injuries in 2012. The ministry covered the costs of her funeral. Liberian Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan Cassell has tried to draw attention to both her death and the issue of rape and gender violence in the country, but her success has been limited. She spoke out against impunity and the silence that continues to surround cases of rape and gender violence in Liberia.”

Her Film Project by Kyna Morgan

“I was stunned and disgusted, saddened by yet another rape, another death from rape, and the loss of a young girl with such possibility in her future…Please go now and sign the petition to pressure Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to make a public statement about the death of Olivia and the epidemic of rape in her country.

I agree, whole-heartedly with Kyna Morgan. I signed the petition. It is yet another small thing that we all can do. Here is the link again in caps: SIGN THE PETITION, it only takes a minute.

Finally, Jessica Vale puts it best. “I hope the release of Small Small Thing will pressure the Liberian government to find Olivia’s accused rapist and bring him to trial. Olivia was Liberian, but her voice is global. How many times, in how many countries does this have to happen for people to pay attention?”

A stone I died and rose again a plant;
a plant I died and rose an animal;
I died an animal and was born a man.
Why should I fear? What have I lost by death?

2 Responses to “A Small Death; A Global Voice

  • Quatis
    2 years ago

    So sad I watched the story. So sorry Olivia!!!

  • Keith Karabin
    1 year ago

    Yes, Quatis, agreed!