The guest speaker at the program, Ms. Elizabeth Gbah, Program Manager of woman and girls at Action Aid Liberia, highlighted education as an important tool in breaking the cycle of violence and poverty in Liberia. If Liberia is to advance to the level of other countries, she contended, Liberians who have the means to do so need to take the initiative to create avenues to building the capacity of the younger generation by providing them basic skills.
She told the audience that women and girls have for a long time been denied opportunities to advance themselves academically and socially by past leaders. Ms Gbah cited statistics from UNESCO and UNICEF which indicate that 39% of women and girls have no access to primary education. Roughly 14% obtain a secondary education, and females have the highest illiteracy rate in the Liberia, with a life expectancy of 45 years.
The statistics are not strange, Ms. Gbah stated, because of the level of sexual-based violence and violence against girls in schools. These originate from the age-old attitudes of African society, which suppresses and marginalizes women.
“Most women and girls feel inferior to their male counterparts because they are not given the space to exploit their potentials,” she explained. “The male children have always been favored [when it comes to] educational advancement, which has kept the female gender in Africa in darkness. We need to do more for our young females, as they are in greatly in need of our help. They have suffered in the hands of our male counterparts too much. We need to give them skills to enable them become independent”.
The guest speaker lauded the tremendous efforts of the board and administrative staff of WCIF for initiating such a worthy program to provide the young people the needed skills that would prepare them for the job market in order to improve their lives. She said the initiative undertaken by WCIF should serve as an example to other organizations.
“What WCIF has done today will forever be remember by these beneficiaries, because if [the beneficiaries] properly use their skills, it will transform their lives forever. WCIF has set a good example that needs to be emulated by other organizations in order to win this societal battle of illiteracy, poverty, ignorance and deprivation,” she asserted.
The Action Aid program manager also acknowledged the tremendous sacrifices of the graduates and cautioned them to put their acquired knowledge to work so that their time and efforts would not go in vain.
The guest speaker also frowned upon the quality of education at the various institutions of learning, especially universities and colleges because, as she said, this is where transactional sex (sex for grades) is becoming a norm. She pointed out that, it is because of this practice of transactional sex that most of Liberia’s college graduates are unable to write a fitting application letter -- graduates who have not gone through the proper studies. She concluded that women should not use their bodies to obtain or secure a job, but rather their competence.
Also speaking at the certification program, the President/CEO of WCIF, Cllr. Rosemarie B. James, explained that WCIF came about as a result of an effort to give back to the society from which one has benefitted so much.
“We work because we want to give back. We do not work because we want to be praised,” she told the audience. The whole objective of the foundation, she explained, is to help women and girls in particular and Liberians as a whole.
Cllr. James made reference to the persistent problem of unemployment in Liberia among college and high school graduates, who find it difficult to land a job because Liberian children do not have the means to acquire basic vocational skills that will prepare them for the job market upon graduation.
“The young women today need all the help they can get from us who want to give the assistance. So WCIF is here to give the necessary assistance to young women and girls. Those who want the assistance should come to WCIF,” she told the lively audience.
The WCIF CEO encouraged women that if they want to excel in the society, they should be competitors with their male counterparts at every level of society. Even apart from academic education, she advised, women need to acquire other skills to make them more versatile and eligible for the job market.
Also speaking at the program, Cllr. Gloria M. Scott, former chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, cautioned the graduates to know their priorities, adding that they should not compromise their advancement or personal development to satisfy someone else’s desires. She also cautioned women in general that every opportunity available should be use for improving their condition, because time is running out.
“Our male counterparts tell us on a daily basis that all of the opportunities available to us and our time in leadership are just an event because President Sirleaf’s tenure as president will soon be over. We have always been marginalized and they [want that to continue]. For instance, no female lawyer has ever been elected president of the Liberian Bar Association. These are some of the clear examples of women’s marginalization in this country”, Cllr. Scott stated.
WCIF was established in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) in 1996 by Cllr. Rosemarie B. James. The goal of the organization is to provide charitable, educational, legal, relief and other assistance to women, children and indigents. The foundation’s sole purpose is to improve and develop the lives and status of women and girls in every area and sector of Liberian society.
Since its establishment, WCIF has fought and won many legal cases in favor of single mothers and less fortunate women. It has also handled cases of rape, sexual harassment and all kinds of societal vices that dehumanize and make women feel inferior in their own surroundings.
The colorful event was attended by the Chairman and Members of the WCIF Board of Directors, the CEO and administrative staff, other prominent personalities, relatives and friends of the graduates and members of the Liberian press.