Liberia: KEEP Launches ‘Living Legends’

Brenda Moore displays a copy of her new book, Living Legends  

— A book on the extraordinary lives and careers of living Liberian women

They’re by no means superhuman, but what all have been accomplished by the 53 Liberian women featured in the latest book by Brenda Moore, are nothing short of extraordinary.

“But to be captured in a volume of literature while they are still alive is the essence of the entire project,” says Moore, author of the book, ‘Living Legends’. 

Living Legends will be launched at the annual fundraiser of the Kids Educational Engagement Project on Saturday, November 19, 2022 at 6:00 p.m., at the Ministerial Complex, Congo Town, Monrovia. 

“What inspired me to do this book was really, first of all, realizing how many Liberian women are doing amazing things that are not always recognized,” Moore told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview about Living Legends last week. “I wanted to do something that appreciates women from all walks of life, for whatever contributions that they are making.” 

Moore said she observed early on that a lot of women are doing things that are making immense positive contributions to societal transformation, although some of them do not know — or have never considered — how much of an impact their contributions have on the country and its people. 

“How I went about getting the names first was that there were people that I knew and they shared their stories. But what I did was to ask them to pay it forward by recognizing and recommending five other women they knew, each. They don’t have to be educated, I told them, but that you feel they can do something good, that you can have a chat with them to tease out what they are doing and how they feel about the project” she explained.

She noted that most of the women featured were not enthusiastic about being part of the project simply because they were either shying away from talking about their contributions or did not want to be associated with the strange undertaking.

“There were quite a few that were surprised about their respective nominations for this project. The book features women from as young as 19 years old to over 80. I made sure to get young women, middle aged women, and elderly women to feature in the book. One of the young women was shocked that I put her in a book along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She was concerned that she has not done anything much for such a high recognition but I made her understand that at such a young age she’s been able to push herself beyond what the narrative is,” Moore disclosed.

“One of the challenges I faced was getting women to talk about themselves. Women are typically not a boasting type except for a few of us who, when given small opportunities, in no time we finished talking,” she continued.

She emphasized that recognizing people, particularly women, while they are alive for the good things they do, inspires them to do more.

While some of these women wield global influence, such as Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah R. Gbowee — both of whom are Nobel Peace Laureates; and Yvette Chesson-Wureh, an international lawyer and women’s development expert, others are better known for their sectoral influence, such as Hester Williams and Sister Mary Laurene Browne, seasoned educators. 

Then there is Sarah Taylor, another outstanding educator who is not as widely known. 

Yet, still, one of the truly inspiring stories in the book is that of Judge Serena Garlawolo, who was born into a polygamous family. Her mother, who had only girls, was told by her mates that because she did not give her husband a son, her offspring added no value to the family. Now a Judge for Criminal Court “E” which deals with sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) cases, Serena’s remarkable journey of transformation has positively altered the trajectory of not just her family, but the nation at large.

Mae Azango is a journalist who has taken leaps through tough moments, having dared the storms and broken news stories that shaped policy decisions on gender issues.

According to Moore, one of her key motivations for producing ‘Living Legends’ is to inspire young girls to aspire to greater heights in contributing to societal transformation at all levels.

According to her, the book is the first in a trilogy, through which she aims to highlight a total of 150 legendary Liberian women.  

As founder and executive director of Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP), Moore has authored several other books, most of which are listed as supplemental reading texts for Liberian schools.

KEEP was founded during the height of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014/2015 as a goodwill gesture to keep children academically engaged during the health crisis. Realizing the numerous gaps in the education sector at the time, KEEP has been supporting the national education sector plan with several initiatives, including the establishment of libraries and reading rooms at public schools as well as training of teachers, making available computer literacy and girls’ skills training.

Anticipated Impact 

According to Moore, while writing books to highlight the good things many women have done and continue to do, it will be more impactful if systems of recognition and awards could be institutionalized at both public and private levels.

“One of the things in which the U.S. Government has been very successful is recognizing and rewarding the contributions of its citizens. We hear about the Meritorious Honor Awards, Presidential Honor Award and that trickles into the institutions that they even have. The U.S. Embassy here has annual award ceremonies, wherein they recognize staff for different things that they have done above and beyond call of duty,” Moore said.

She added that she will work with the Ministry of Education as she has done with her previous published books to make ‘Living Legends’ a supplementary reading book in schools across the country.

Other books authored by her include Sundayma, My Body My Treasure, Free to be Me, and Deddeh Knows All About Corona — all of which are on the shelves at libraries and are approved for supplemental reading for schools across Liberia. 

She said ‘Living Legends’ is good for teaching Civics or Social Studies to young students.

Moore encouraged all who are invited as well as many others who did not receive an official invitation to feel welcomed at the launch of the new book on November 19 as its intent is also associated with raising funds to embark on other education-related programs.