…… As Leo Trembley, Deputy Chief of Mission to Ivory Coast paid visit to Liberia and had a dialogue with the first time voters
Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) continues to attract assistance from donors, especially with its recent recruitment of young female first time voters who got involved with civic voter education campaigns targeting fellow first time voters in two of the six counties it has selected to work with in the electoral cycle for this year.
KEEP’s Executive Director, Brenda Moore and her young women and girls were happy that Leo Trembley, Switzerland’s Deputy Chief of Mission to Ivory Coast visited and had direct interaction with those involved with KEEP’s activities and the impact they are making.
Trembley, accompanied by his country’s Consul General assigned near Monrovia, expressed delight when he met with young girls and women who shared their thoughts and experiences with him were not only articulate but also courageous and smart enough in their engagement with him and his colleague.
The brief dialogue was held at the Young Women’s Christian Association’s (YWCA) reading room for students from Monrovia, built by KEEP. KEEP is a project involved in building reading rooms across the country and has already done 32 of them in different counties and communities.
“The meeting was dynamic. The young women were expressive. It is very important to engage young people at their early ages. It is good for young women to learn how to stand their ground,” he said.
Switzerland does not have its Embassy in Monrovia but the Embassy in Abidjan provides oversight and liaison between his country and Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.
The deputy Chief of Mission noted with emphasis that no country develops or becomes improved without trained and properly educated human resources. He boasted of how his country, although small in size and is landlocked with not many natural resources, is the best performing country in terms of education in middle Europe.
He said his country does not only invest huge sums of money in the education of its people but also takes interest in helping other nationals acquire quality education through scholarship programs.
“Switzerland is supporting Liberia from Abidjan. We are helping small and medium NGOs like KEEP. We take interest in supporting programs that promote human rights, sustainable. Liberia and Sierra Leone are going to elections this year and we are part of projects that foster free and fair elections. It is important and the participation of women is crucial,” Trembley noted.
He added that women empowerment and gender equality are important tools that help any nation in its growth and development processes.
“In the human development index of the UN, we are number one in Europe.
We are at that level because we value our women. We give them the best and we allow them to have a part to play in national discussions and decision taking. In many other countries, people think women don’t contribute much, but it is not true. For society to go forward, it is good to unleash much potential. It is not just important to bring everyone together but making sure everyone offers something,” he said.
For Brenda Moore, it was a dream come true that Trembley visited and accepted the invite to listen to the young girls and women and also spoke to them on issues of growth and improvement for not only themselves but their communities and the country they come from too.
“This is our first time meeting Ambassador Trembley in person but we have been friends for a long while and always heard from each other through the internet. The Swiss government through their Embassy in Abidjan has sponsored us before in the past and we are grateful,” Madam Moore said.
She added that it is interesting that she and her team got the opportunity to interact with people who place a lot of interest in education.
“We want our young women to stand in front of kings and queens, and even presidents to speak their minds. We know it takes time to grow in mind properly but we are glad that we are already on the path and we will succeed,” she said.
Moore explained that her female dominant voter registration civic education team involved young girls and women who showed willingness in helping their fellow first time voters to take serious civic responsibilities and register in their constituencies rather than allowing any politician to fool them with small money to travel far away from home to register to vote for said politician.
She concluded that even though her team only worked with Montserrado and Bong Counties during the Biometric Voter Registration period, two other counties, including Nimba and Gbarpolu remain part of the team’s plan for engagement and enlightening the minds of first time voters to do what is right.
Earlier, there was a round table dialogue held with Trembley and Victoria Y. Miazee a visually impaired student at LICOSESS (Teacher training college) said she and her colleagues’ visit to schools in Gbarnga was rewarding.
“We met first time voters at St. Peter High School, Dolokolen Gboveh High School and JF High School We spoke to them about the steps involved to register to vote, including online registration. We saw that some did not have interest in the Voter registration process but with our awareness campaign and encouraging them, they saw the need to form part of the decision making process in our country,” Miazee disclosed.
Elisha D. Chea, a high school graduate who said she is already in her matriculation process to the University of Liberia, explained that her team prepared jingles and paid for them to play on selected radio stations in Monrovia.
“We used our jingles and messages on ECOWAS and ELBC Radio stations. We also made a video and put it on YouTube to inform our fellow first time voters that they are an important component of the population and should be wise enough in using their voting cards,” Chea said.
Many other first time voters shared their personal experiences too from their engagements with friends in Gbarnga.