President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has long been a proponent for women’s advancement in various spheres of Liberian society. She has put a specific emphasis on market women taking a bigger role in many of the government’s development initiatives. Although other Liberian women have benefited from the President’s drive to empower females, market women enjoy most of that focus. Market women were the chief beneficiaries of projects commemorating her 75th birth anniversary.
In a change from these recent trends, last week President Sirleaf publicly committed herself to the empowerment of women involved in farming. The President intends to solicit support from Liberia’s development partners so these women can transition from subsistence to large scale farming.
At a meeting held last weekend at her Foreign Affairs office with Assistant Director General for the African Division of the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA), Mr. Georg Andrén, and Sweden’s Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Sofia Strand, President Sirleaf requested that the partnership between the Swedish government and Liberia should concentrate on rural women, most of whom are engaged in subsistence farming.
President Sirleaf praised Sweden’s role in Liberia’s recovery, especially in the areas of women’s empowerment. She expressed hope the partnership would take this focal point to another level by enabling women to learn more advanced farming techniques.
Sweden, through SIDA, has been supporting various projects in Liberia, most notably on women’s empowerment, agriculture and road rehabilitation in Liberia.
The Liberian leader also spoke of the need for stronger technical and vocational institutions. She invited SIDA to work with the Ministries of Agriculture and Gender to ensure that women in small scale agriculture receive adequate support enabling them to transitions from ‘hand-to-mouth’ farming to more lucrative agricultural practices.
She thanked Sweden for its development partnership, which she said is a manifestation of the long relationship between the two countries dating back to the operation of the Nimba mines by the Liberian-American-Swedish Minerals Company (LAMCO). She indicated that the recent posting of an Ambassador with residence in Liberia had further strengthened the ties.
The Liberian President used the occasion to thank the Government and people of Sweden for their support to her national secretariat for the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which she co-chaired. She expressed further hope Sweden would continue to support the voice of the people as contained in the Panel’s Report to the Secretary-General.
Speaking after the President, Mr. Andrén said that Sweden’s renewed commitment to Liberia’s development is based on responsible leadership exemplified by President Sirleaf.
The SIDA Assistant Director General for Africa said that the Swedish people have seen their taxes at work in Liberia and are encouraged by the level of development in the country. “Sweden promises to do more in support of the President’s development agenda through SIDA, we will remain a dependable partner,” he said.
Mr. Andrén said that his organization was equally ready to help in capacity building and promised to help fund such activities.
SIDA, he informed the President, was working with USAID and ExxonMobil in a tripartite arrangement for development in Zambia, Ethiopia and South Africa, and hoped a similar engagement would work in Liberia.
The President promised to raise the subject during the upcoming Liberia-U.S. Partnership Dialogue slated for early February.