The Traditional Leaders of Liberia with support from the European union and UN women have launched a program with the title, “Alternative Economic Activities for Tradition Practitioners,” with Plan International set to implement it. It is aimed at ending “Female Genital Mutilation” across the country; a traditional practice that has existed among tribal Liberians for generations.
But of late the practice has received discouraging receptions from many quarters of the world, including the European Union and many other international non-governmental organizations, struggling along the social line of Liberia to end it.
Under the AEATP, partners are to build vocational and heritage centers for traditional leaders especially those of the Sande Society, and the leaders will be taught to divert from from what partners describe as “Harmful practice.”
The Alternative Economic Activities for Tradition Practitioners was held on Monday, December 16, 2019 in Tienne, Grand Cape Mount County, and it brought together traditional leaders from across the 15 counties, as well as EU and UN delegates, government officials and representatives of Civil Society Organizations.
The Alternative Economic Activities for Traditional Practitioners is part of the Liberia Spotlight Initiative.
Liberia is one of eight countries selected to participate in the Spotlight Initiative funded by the European Union in collaboration with the Government of Liberia and the United Nations. A total of US$18.5 million will fund the first phase of the four-year project. Funding for the second phase will be based on the results outlined in the program framework to be achieved.
It is implemented in six counties including Montserrado, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Grand Cape Mount and Nimba.
In a keynote address, Mr. Anthony V. Kesselly, who proxied for Vice President of Liberia Jewel Howard Taylor, said the Launch of the Provision of Alternative Economic Activities for Traditional Practitioners speaks to the core of that ‘anomaly.’
Kesselly, a Senior Policy Specialist in the office of the Vice President, said many people live with those mental and physical effects of the malaise.
Kesselly said Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Liberia takes on many forms such as rape, child marriage, offensive touching, wife beating, denial of resources, acid attacks as well as the subtler and hidden forms of violence and other harmful practices. He said with the intervention of the alternative economic activities those cases will come to an end.
“As it can be seen by the deep involvement of the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Government of Liberia is well positioned in this exercise; which is viewed as carrying great potential for the transformation of not only our thoughts but also our living conditions,” Kesselly said.
Kesselly said the Vice president is optimistic that the vocational and heritage centers, when constructed and purposefully utilized, will yield the dividend of transforming lives, productive citizens, and functional family units.
He reaffirmed VP Taylor’s support to end FGM across the country because it is an endeavor that worth government attention.
Marie-Goreth Nizigama, UN Women Country Representative expressed gratitude to the European Union, the Embassy of Sweden, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders for their support in addressing gender-based violence and harmful practices in Liberia especially FGM.
Madam Goreth Nizigama said Chief Zanzan Karwor and his team have been very supportive in ensuring that gradual but definite steps are taken to eradicate harmful practices that undermine the dignity of women and girls.
She said with the continuous engagement of UN Women through the cooperation of traditional leaders, there is significant improvement in dealing with the issue of FGM, leading to some gains such as the signing of the 7 Count Policy by traditional leaders that led to suspension of the Bush School interventions.
Goreth Nizigama said the engagement has enabled the mapping of traditional zoes and groves in the five spotlight Counties with a database now in place for a smooth implementation and support to the Practitioners in the selected counties.
She indicated that the Access to Alternative Economic Activities for Traditional Practitioners is an affirmative action for economic empowerment and will definitely provide an alternative source of income for the practitioners, adding that the vocational and heritage centers for women and girls will have a better opportunity to transfer knowledge and life skills to the younger generation thus keeping the positive cultural heritage of Liberia alive.
Goreth Nizigama disclosed that an alternative rite of passage to womanhood for women and girls will also be developed led by the traditional leaders themselves where girls are initiated based on positive cultural practices other than undergoing cut.
Miriam Murray, Deputy Country Director Plan International, said in a remarks that the launch of the Alternative Economic Activities for Traditional practitioners makes a milestone in their commitment to promoting and upholding gender equality and ending harmful traditional practices in Liberia.
She said women are affected by all of the 17 sustainable development goal, noting that they are poor, hungry, uneducated, sick , violated and without access to information.
Murray said the program is about the empowerment of women to clear hindrances ahead of them so that they can play an important role in the society.