The Liberian Women Empowerment Network in Europe (LIWENE) recently held its first international conference while celebrating the National Flag Day of Liberia in Kristiansand, Norway. The event was held in collaboration with Plan Foya, a Liberian Organization based in Kristiansand.
The high-level event took place at the headquarters of Blue Cross in Kristansand, bringing together several dignitaries including from the Kristiansand Municipality along with Liberian Minister of Gender, Child Children and Social Protection, Ms. Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr, and five high-level delegates. Also present was the Former Ambassador of Liberia to Germany and Scandinavia, Sedia Bangoura.
In her address, the Keynote Speaker, Ms. Rie Lukowski spoke on the need for Liberians in the Diaspora to unite and work together for a better Liberia. Ms. Lukowski, a Human Rights Lawyer and Professional Social Worker worked in Liberia for nine years as Child Educator and Women’s Rights advocate, through the instrumentality of Ms. Esther Kanteh Gyflan, President of Plan Foya.
The event came at the heels of talks between LIWENE officials and the Mayor of Kristiansand, Norway to address issues regarding gender, women, and girls in Liberia.
The Conference also featured important stakeholders with ideas to help shape the future of women and girls. The President of the United Sisters of Norway, Ms. Famata Sirleaf, the President of the United Liberian Association of Norway, Mr. Emmanuel Suah and Ken Marblow, President Emeritus, were accompanied by their delegations to show solidarity with LIWENE.
Minister Saydee-Tarr gave a report on the current status of gender issues in Liberia. She highlighted some of the initiatives undertaken by the government with respect to gender and child protection, including policies and actions taken: Sexual, gender-based violence and women's economic empowerment.
For her part, Ambassador Bangoura urged Liberian Women to take the lead in National Reconciliation, noting in Liberian parlance, ‘Non Mahn Yah’. She noted that since the Liberian Civil War ended in 2003, “our post-conflict recovery has been moving at a snail’s pace, and we are still struggling with reconciling our differences as a nation and people.”
She observed that Liberians are still struggling to recover because “we have yet to atone for our sins and the atrocities committed during the war. We have yet to say ‘Non mahn Yah’ or to apologize and ask for forgiveness on a national scale.” Ambassador Bangoura later invited LIWENE, Plan Foya, United Sisters of Liberia in Norway to lead this effort in helping to reconcile the people and nation of Liberia in order to break the bonds that are keeping the country from recovery. She added, “we must collectively as a nation say, ‘non mahn’.”
In her remarks, Ms. Emily E. Erskine, Chairperson of LIWENE, led the gathering in reminiscing the true meaning of the words of the Liberian national song, ‘The Lone Star Forever’. She was later presented with sashes from the government of Liberia along with the President of Plan Foya, Esther Gyflan. To mark the official flag day celebration, Ms. Kou Glaymehn Boayou gave a brief history of the designing of the Liberian Flag.
Other notable Liberian organizations from Norway (United Liberian Associations of Norway and United Sisters of Norway) joined LIWENE at the conference.