Very few know that the International Women’s Day commemorated on 8 March every year first emerged from the activities of Labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.
Our article for this month would focus on the progress made since those early days and the emerging new global dimension. We would start first and foremost on the shocking revelation that very few Liberian girls and women understand the concept of gender and women’s rights.
Fewer young schoolgirls were able to understand what gender stands for or what gender is all about. Further peace dialogue among young girls and women revealed inability to differentiate between gender and sex.
Recognizing this gap, Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia initiated a talk shop on what is gender, what gender is all about and differences between gender and sex. During the talk shop on a humid Saturday afternoon in Caldwell, we were informed that gender refers to those characteristics assigned to men and women by society. This definition confused us, but our guest speaker went on to state that these attributes are socially constructed attitudes, beliefs and expectations of what men and women should be, what men and women should do and how they should relate to one another.
In discussing the conditions of Liberian women, we need to look at what gender is about by examining the social roles and relations between men and women, how power is used and shared, what to expect from men and women and all areas of social, economic and political dimensions.
A review of the social conditions of Liberian women shows that girls and women in Liberia are marginalized from birth. Majority of our women are subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); several others are raped, sexually exploited and abused. According to Thelma Aremiebi Ekiyor and Noble Laurate
Leymah Roberta Gbowee, the numerical strength, sisterhood and shared experience to bring about social change in the conditions of women, has unfortunately, since the mid-1980 been overshadowed by the plague of the armed conflict that lasted for over fourteen years in Liberia. (Read Women’s Peace
Activism in West Africa: The WIPNET Experience for details)
While many Liberian women are the breadwinners and are responsible for assuming culturally created norms regarding roles and responsibilities of men, there remains a huge gap in wages for assigned roles that varies across different occupation. In Liberia, occupational segregation still exists, as discrimination of women in the work place, which according to Pope Francis is pure scandal, is a norm. Our articles on Work place mob violence would provide more insight.
It is disheartening that here in Liberia, women are largely ignored in workplace politics and not much is heard from established authority when the rights of women are trampled.
Since gender is about how power is used and shared, we need to address the economic dimensions of gender parity by closing pay gap through providing and enforcing equal pay laws. We should establish or act as a pressure group to for a national coalition for equal pay. We need to take care of our work force participation, social protection and care services for women if we are to improve conditions of Liberian women.
Furthermore, we need to engage and encourage more women to get involved. There is a need for a shift in gender stereotype and education for more girls and women.
Until next week, when we come to you with yet another piece on Dialogue Among Peace Messenger-Conditions of Liberia Women-A political Dimension, it is Peace First, Peace above all else, may peace prevail in our time.