As I woke up last night to write this piece, I remember as well as acknowledge with gratitude women who changed my life as I come of age. Every girl child is first to recognize the part played by their mother and I take this opportunity to recognize my rock of Gibraltar, Mrs. Juah K. Myers (Original Myers), who taught me to excel. My late grandmothers (Martha Wayneh Sonpon)- who taught me to pray; my fire mother (Pinky James) who influenced so many and lost her life in the process; to me, she symbolized how important it is to help young women, because the future of new generations is in their hands.
I also remember with fond appreciation the roles played by Mrs. Rhonda Staudt (Founding Chair-Shirley Ann Sullivan Education Foundation-SASEF), who taught me to be a better advocate for peace and volunteerism through constant reminders to engage at the international level; Sarah Jane Mungo (Former Advocacy, Information and Communications Specialist-United Nations Volunteer Programme-UNMIL), a friend and a mentor who taught me how important it is to return phone calls and e-mail messages and staying in contact with those who bring positive changes to your life and above all professional guidance, my one and only big sister; Roseline Kpodi for her love and support, Rev. Sr. Patience Payne (Sisters of the Holy Family-Catholic Diocese of Cape Palmas) for her prayers and guidance, Rev. Sr. Barbara Brillant FMM (Dean, Mother Patern College of Health Sciences) Mrs. Charlene Awadjie-Ihedioha (Deputy Managing Director for Administration-Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation), Maureen Sieh (IREX-Liberia), Cllr. Deweh Gray (Law Reform Commission), Mrs. Neima Candy (Liberian National Red Cross), Mrs. Heidi Kuhn (Founder& CEO-Roots for Peace, USA), Minister Julia Duncan Cassell (Minster of Gender, Children and Social Protection, RL), Estella Nelson (Liberia Women Democracy Radio), Pari Farmani (Institute for Inclusive Security), Korto Williams (Action Aid International Liberia) and Rev. Dr. Katurah York Cooper (Founder& Pastor-Empowerment Temple-AME Church) for strongly believing in me!
I am also influenced by others like Malala Yousafzai who gives children a window to understand inequality, Mother Theresa who provided dignity within the horror of Calcutta, India; Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for being the First Female President in Africa, Madam Gbowee for winning Noble Peace Prize and serving as mentor to me and Condoleezza Rice for being the first black female Secretary of State and for her Intelligence.
My Faith and leadership programme with the Center for Women Faith & Leadership programme at the Institute for Global Engagement, USA is a great influencer. I am forever grateful to the entire Women Peacebuilding Leadership Cohort Programme at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, VA, USA for leading me to my professional mentor – Kathryn Mary Mansfield and many others who I’ve not named, but have had a significant impact in my life.
Gender dynamics is a function of development. According to the final draft on the Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security, the challenges faced by young people that engage in building peace, transforming conflicts and countering violence are highly gender dependent. In Liberia, like in most parts of the world, the political preparation of young people in particular is jeopardized. Young women are not accorded equal opportunities and most organizations neither support youth-led Organizations nor empower young women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. It is usually considered the domain of the older male dominated generation. We need more women like those who changed my life.
It is obvious that we can no longer be guided by the strategies of the past, we must recommit to strategies designed to promote and protect the rights of girls, prevent Gender Based Violence and end impunity for crimes such as child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilations and domestic violence.
Messengers of Peace (MOP) – Liberia agree with the notion that special measures should be established to include minimum quotas for the participation of girls and women in all decision- and policy-making. We also agree that Youth-led Organizations must continuously be gender sensitive in all their actions and strive to ensure inclusiveness.
Until next week, when we come to you with our concluding piece on dialogues among peace messengers: “Partnership for Peace-Dignity for All-Part 4”, Peace First, Peace above all else, May Peace prevail on earth.