The Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC), a peace advocacy group, recently concluded a two days meeting aimed at creating awareness on the danger of drugs and violence being reported, mainly among the youth of Liberia.
The meeting, held in Gbarnga, Bong County, brought together more than 200 participants comprising women leaders, town chiefs, paramount chiefs, and youth leaders from 20 communities in Montserrado and Bong counties.
According to ABIC, the initiative is a component of the “Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia through Promotion of Women's Leadership” project, which the organization implements.
The project highlights women’s participation in civic and political life and strengthens the roles of women in conflict resolution engagement mainly in Montserrado and Bong counties. ABIC disclosed that if the problem of drug usage is not addressed immediately, they foresee that the upcoming elections could be more dangerous.
The program was also held under the auspices of the Angie Brooks Center for Women's Empowerment, Leadership Development, and International Peace and Security, with support from the United Nation Peace Building Fund.
During the two-day interactive mediation dialogue, the women said the issue of drug abuse and political violence have become a national emergency that must be attended to urgently to maintain the hard-earned peace Liberians have enjoyed over the last decades.
Some of the things highlighted during the meeting include how to discourage the use of illicit drugs and the danger they pose to humanity; and how illicit drugs can be stopped in communities.
The participants used the meeting to urge parents to observe their children’s behavior at home and report to relevant authorities if they notice any act of associating with drug dealers in the communities. Many of the participants also recommended that ABIC intensify its peace awareness program to educate non-users and users of illicit drugs on the dangers of illicit drugs.
They further called for the establishment of a rehab center and a vocational training center to give skills training and empowerment opportunities to at-risk youths, so as to deter them from using illicit drugs.
Meanwhile, leaders participating in the meetings have pledged to donate lands for the construction of rehabilitation centers in their respective communities.
Some areas mentioned as sites for the centers by the participants include the Gbarnga community (25 acres), Salala community (35 acres), and Todee (50 acres). Negotiations are currently underway with communities to erect rehabilitation centers. ABIC has, however, set a committee to choose which community will be suitable for the project.
At the same time, reacting to the increasing wave of political violence in communities and the danger it places on the security of Liberia, the participants also recommended that there should be a stakeholder’s dialogue and more training for election staff to be educated on how to avoid electoral violence during the discharge of their duties.
The participants also urged community dwellers not to allow trucking or allow people from other communities to be trucked from one area to another during the election period.
It may be recalled that since the constitutional referendum of May 7, 1946 and coming into force on December 10, 1946, as preceded by a change in the constitution of Liberia by the national legislature granting women voting rights, women have impacted the development and maintenance of Liberia’s peace positively at local and international levels. This has brought great pride to Liberia on the international stage.
Cllr. Yvette Chesson Wureh, Founder of ABIC and Coordinator of the Women's Situation Room, told participants that women remain essential in maintaining Liberia’s peace during electioneering periods.
Wureh, who served as one of the motivational speakers, urged the women and youths not to only use the training for them but rather use it to impact the children and communities in which they live.
“When you become enlightened, strengthen your brothers and sisters as well,” she said.
Wureh disclosed that women, under the auspices of the women's situation room, will be trained to the standard of the United Nations to observe electioneering periods in both Liberia and globally. She stated that countries gain and lose during the election period and, as such, it is critical for women to play a pivotal role as observers during the 2023 elections. This statement was met with thunderous applause.
Wureh motivated the women to make maximum use of the knowledge gained to save Liberia’s emerging democracy.
“This training is not for you, but for your children and society. It is not what you gather, but what you scatter that adds value to your life. The more knowledgeable you are, the better you can save your country’s democracy,” she added.
Rev. Evan. Judy E. Stryker, one of the eminent women who spoke at the mediation dialogue, said that there are some factors that are responsible for political violence in every society.
However, Stryker attributed these factors to illicit drug abuse and addiction as well as a lack of political will. She also intimated that the lack of proper monitoring and mentorship for children, poverty, and the lack of a collective approach to fight against illicit drug sales, drug use, and drug abuse are major factors Liberia is confronted with.
Stryker, however, called on community dwellers, civil society, religious groups, the government and other relevant stakeholders to use a more holistic approach in combating drug abuse and political violence.
Since the inception of the fourteen years of civil unrest, drug addiction has become a major challenge to Liberia with an astronomical increase in the number of youth, men, women, and teenage school kids who have become drug addicts, resulting in an increase in political and domestic violence.