As a part of efforts to unite women in Liberia, Kvinna till Kvinna in collaboration with the UNMIL Gender Affairs Office on Thursday, November 17, organized its 4th Consultative Meeting under the theme: “Unity of women in Liberia , roles and cultural consideration.” In attendance were more than a hundred women from both urban and rural Liberia as well as representatives from CBOs, CSOs, government agencies, NGOs, INGOs, marketers, members of the Traditional Council, entrepreneurs and young women’s organizations.
This year’s meeting was the biggest and most colorful since its inception in April 2015, with most of the participants dressed in glamorous African prints, and the exhibition of locally made products, county flags, and greetings from the 16 tribes of Liberia.
The guest speaker, Prosper Nii Nortey Addo, Officer-In-Charge of the African Union Laison office in Liberia, said the meetings are held in promotion of women’s unity and this is a step in the right direction. Culture which is the way of life of a people plays many roles – positive as well as negative. When actions are taken in the name of culture that causes pain, such actions should be done away with through transformation. Culture is the tool to bring national unity and thus women’s unity. Positive cultural trends reflected in shared beliefs will promote unity and women’s empowerment. Focus must therefore be put on male counterparts who form part of the problem and thus solution as equal partners.
Mr. Addo stresses that there must be recognition of different backgrounds and society as there is unity in diversity. This then leads to acceptance towards what you want to do to help people. Mr. Addo admonishes women actors and stakeholders to talk to others so all will have understanding and sensitization. Culture evolves and as it does, the positive side must be upheld.
To partners and donors, Mr. Addo cautions that there is the need to invest in women’s political participation bearing in mind the consideration for cultural awareness and sensitivity by not imposing beliefs. He further stresses that gender can never be separated from culture as some gender issues are inhibited by some cultural practices.
The Country Representative of KtK Office in Liberia, Rie Lukowski, admonishes all participants at the program that the positive practice of culture is significant in maintaining peace and unity. However, harmful traditional practices must be eradicated for the good of humankind. The energy of culture will be used to unite women and the entire nation. Also, the need for strong values to be maintained regardless of the changing times and how such values should be passed on to the young generation was stressed. Rie called on the women of Liberia to use culture to unite themselves and the entire nation. Rie further asserted that if the women of Liberia can unite to stop the war and Ebola, then they can indeed unite to help address issues that concern them. All were encouraged to spread the word of the need for unity.
James M. Muriithi of UNMIL Gender Affairs Office stressed on the need for inter-generational chain – how the young is benefiting from the old. Women must ensure they talk with a strong voice to advance the work of NGOs. Planned advocacy should consider the UNMIL and GOL transition. Mr. Muriithi further advises that as women do affirmative action advocacy, care must be taken not to forget political participation.
From the panelists, the need for a strong communication strategy and feedback mechanism to be developed by women to bridge the gap of disconnection and disunity was stressed by Samuel Darpolar, an independent consultant.
The President of the National Rural Women of Liberia, Ma Kebbeh Monger, echoed the need for respect among women, both rural and urban. A representative of the Traditional Council, Alice S. Cooper, said the council should be regularly involved in such events to add their voice.
The president of Young Liberian Women Organization for Improvement, Kona S. Kollie, also indicated the need for the older and younger generations to work together.
The Kvinna till Kvinna Communication’s Officer, Adelaide Laryea, one of the panelists, said if indeed ‘the love of liberty brought us here’ then we can show our liberty by showing love, trust and unity among one another. She further called on all to reflect on what Liberia used to be back in the days and how Liberia impacted her sister countries. Posterity will not forgive anyone who tramples Liberia under foot for selfish gains. Furthermore, as we approach the 2017 elections, people elected into office must show a sense of accountability to help retain the electorate’s trust in them.
To crown it all, Mother Mary, Mother Wisdom and now Mother Africa, Mary N. Brownell, a legend and role model stressed on the need to follow the basic principles of our various religions, which admonish us to love, leading to unity. Be more empathetic, be each other’s keeper, put words into practice and train children to respect and thus be relevant to their communities, she said.
Mother Mary admonished all female aspirants to take a cue from the just-ended United States of America elections and be cautious of their actions. “Remember: whatever you do down the road of life will hunt you later on in life, more so as a woman,” she said.