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News about our programmes 30, Sept. 2014

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Comment & analysis

Liberia Women: Their Issues and Challenge

Una Kumba Thompson

2008-03-06, Issue 351

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/46522

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Una Kumba Thompson talks about the special challenges facing Liberian women and calls for greater solidarity amongst African women.

For over two years Africa and the world has seen and witnessed the rise and fall of Liberia. Starting from the 1800s with the arrival of free slaves to the shores of West Africa, leading to the declaration and independence of Liberia in July 26, 1847.
 
Since that time, Liberia has served as a beacon of hope for Africa, until 1980 when this “proclaimed” peaceful country experienced its first calamity of a bloody coup de tait. The country thereafter degenerated into anarchy and chaos, with rampant corruption, human rights abuses and bad governance as its hall mark. 

1990 civil war was the final result of one hundred and forty years of rule of successive governments. It is estimated that over 250.000 Liberians and other nationals died in this crisis; including raping of women/girls, sporadic killing, execution of civilians and destruction of millions of dollars of property, infrastructure and a complete break down of the rule of Law.  Liberia became a “no mans” land with its people fleeing and seeking refugee in various African, European countries including America; thousands languishing in refugee camps. The once beloved nation, one that African countries strived to emulate had become a sad story. 

Just as everything must come to an end, so it was that the civil crisis came to an end in 2003.The ushering in of another interim government with the support of regional and international organizatons, countries lead the process of the general elections of Liberia.

The election of 2005 saw again the transformation of Liberia, setting once more a record in African history as the first African country to elect a woman as their President H.E Ellen Johnson – Salieaf.  

Liberia is once again on the rise, showing to Africa and the world at large that indeed women are capable of leading their nations. African women as well as Liberian women are now singing the song “this is our time” while African men are now realizing that times have changed and that women also can be Heads of state.  

Fingers are pointing to, heads are turning towards, and eyes are focused on Liberian not in pity but in admiration- setting the pace once more for true democracy  in the African continent.

DEFINING A NEW ERA FOR LIBERIAN WOMEN

Liberian women have felt the tied of woes over the years, paid the price of successes, failures in blood, tears, sacrifice even unto death. Their sufferings are untold, their numerous contributions, yet not recorded. 

Today, Liberian women are more conscious of their rights to political, social and economic inclusion and their significant contributions. It is in recognition of these rights that their issues are identified in order to correct the wrongs and rebuild Liberia for sustainable and lasting peace. 

There are many issues that women are faced with in Liberia that were never considered National issues, but norms of the society and community. This orientation is a major cause of women marginalization, discrimination, exclusion and human rights abuse. 

Some of the prevalent issues that are of grave concern are; Gender Based Violence (GBV) { rape, domestic violence, Sexual exploitation), Harmful Cultural practices, particularly FGM, the lack of marketable vocational and technical skills, illiteracy and access to Justice. 

Before the civil war, women/girls were seen as sex objects, to provide sex for the pleasure of men be it by coercion, force, exploitation, mutual agreement or violence. Sexual abuse was never a topic to be discussed in private or public. The Liberian government and society perpetuated a culture of violence against women that saw the escalation of rampant sexual abuse against women and girls during the war. Even though the guns are silent, women and girls continue to suffer sexual violence. 

The lack of political will to implement laws to protect women/girls and the acceptance of harmful cultural practices,( FGM, beatings, killings, arranged child manages, incest, rape, dowry or bride price) are major contributing factors to the high rate of illiteracy, violence and vulnerability of women in Liberia. 

For this and many other reasons, WOLPNET- Women of Liberia Peace Network, a non political, governmental organization, has joined the vanguard to promote women’s rights and to advocate for the adherence to and implementation of national conventions such as the AU Protocol to support, protect and enhance women social economic, civil, liberty and political development. 

With the collaboration and financial support from regional and international organizations, WOLPNET is engaging communities, public and policy makers through its program/projects to sensitize and highlight these issues affecting women Advocating for change in policy, ending violence against women, elimination of harmful cultural practices (Female Genital Mutilation), right to dignity, life, and integrity. 

Through its media program, Women Agenda, WOLPNET is spreading the message of positive change; a change that is transforming and defining politics in Liberia; a change that must also be realized in the lives of women by the elimination of vices that impede women progress, calling for full implementation of; Article 2 elimination of discrimination against women ,Article ¾ rights to dignity, life integrity and security of the person Article 8, Access to justice and equal protection before the law by the AU Protocol on Human and peoples rights on the right of women in Africa. 

To my sisters and women, I urge you to say no to male supremacy, superiority, political domination, exclusion, discrimination and Violence against Women (VAW). Stand for peace, justice, equality and unity.  

The road is rocky and very rough right now, but my sisters, it has been for a long time before now. Like Liberian women, you have been excluded, abused, misused, disgraced, discriminated against and persecuted. 

Nevertheless, stand firm. Liberian women can do it you can do the same .Do not go down but stand up fighting for women’s right; your bodies may be broken but do not allow you sprit and minds to be broken. Remember, many are called but few are chosen- to lead the cause for justice and equality.   

*Una Kumba Thompson is CEO of Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET).

**Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
                       


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