#IWD21: Four Women Inspiring Change in Liberia

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Celebrating Liberian women: Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey, Brenda Brewer Moore, Ne-Suah Beyan-Livingstone and Benita Whitney Urey

International Women’s Day is set aside to celebrate women globally. Each year an annual International Women’s Day campaign theme is celebrated and continues all year long to unify direction and galvanize activity by providing a meaningful framework to connect and amplify the action, according to the International Women’s Day website. 

With this year’s theme, “Choose to challenge,” we look at four Liberian women who are challenging status-quo and transforming the narrative on Liberian women. We would be remiss to acknowledge that Liberian women have been trailblazers in their own right, predating the Republic of Liberia itself. We are talking about giants such as (in no apparent order) the famous Madam Suakoko, Judge Emma Shannon Walser, Mae Antoinette Brown Sherman, Angie Brooks Randall, Dr. Thelma Awori, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Olubanke King Akerele and Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh, to name a few — Liberian women with global significance. Below, we bring you the next generation of such outstanding women.

Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey

The author, Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey, launched her book on publication day at the University of Liberia. (Photo courtesy of Joy Jacobs)

This Liberian scholar is smashing stereotypes of women being created to cater to the home. Ages before she was born, men were the ones pushed to achieve their educational dreams while females were discouraged to embark on a similar journey. Women, however, were tailored in activities considered ideal for housewives. 

But with her level of success in academia, Dr. Pailey references her life as evidence of what happens when opportunities are given to women to achieve their educational dreams. 

Dr. Pailey has been recognised as a 2019 Mary Chirwa Award for Courageous Leadership finalist; a 2016 Women4Africa International African Woman of the Year finalist; as one of ‘25 Africans to Watch’ by the Financial Times in 2015; a 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation; a 2013 ‘99 under 33’ influential foreign policy leader by Diplomatic Courier; a 2010 Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow by the African Leadership Institute; and a 2004 USA Today All-USA College Academic Second Team finalist. She completed BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature at Howard University, an MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford, and a doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, as a Mo Ibrahim Foundation PhD Scholar. 

Dr. Pailey advocates for opportunities for girls’ educations, and women’s rights including gender equality. Her recent published book stands out to be the first literature on Dual Citizenship from an African perspective. Her latest book, “Development, (Dual) Citizenship and its Discontents in Africa: The Political Economy of Belonging to Liberia”, based on her doctoral thesis, is expected to be launched in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ghana, the UK, and the United States of America this year.

Brenda Brewer Moore 

Brenda Brewer Moore, Founder and Executive Director, KEEP

Brenda has had a longing interest in kids’ education, especially making education engaging for children. Through her organization, the Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP), Brenda has lobbied for resources to build reading rooms, especially in rural communities across Liberia. In the absence of public libraries in Liberia, and where general literary enrichment remains a luxury for an urban few, KEEP’s reading rooms and resources are an invaluable asset to children across Liberia. She recently launched a book series for school-age pupils. Copies of the book were distributed in schools both in the urban and rural parts of Liberia. 

Ne-Suah Beyan-Livingstone

Ne-suah Beyan-Livingstone, founder, the REACH Foundation

Her name is one of the most mentioned names on Facebook, but for a good reason. In 2014, she initiated the Rescue for Abandoned Children (REACH), a not-for-profit organization restoring hope to less privileged children across the country. Her organization runs a feeding program for less privileged children and, an education program where she lobbies resources from Liberian sponsors locally and internationally — meaning, Liberians are the ones helping Liberians. More than two hundred children are fed every week at REACH’s feeding program. Also, the group has reported that through partners’ sponsorship 300 children have completed high school. 

Benita Whitney Urey

Benita Whitney Urey, model and social media influencer

Over the years, young Benita Urey has established herself as a social media influencer and is one of the key promoters of Liberia’s entertainment industry. Nonetheless, the young influencer has never ceased from demonstrating empathy and taking a stand on important but often-ignored issues in Liberian society. From clean-up campaigns to protests against rape and sexual and gender-based violence, Benita shows that her platform is more than just about entertainment. Currently, the social media influencer is lobbying for resources to develop the capacity of inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison at South Beach. Her dream is to see people leave prison with marketable skills for a fresh new start. 

13 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not surprised that Professor Robtel Neajai Pailey made the list of four professional Liberian women this year. I have known Prof. Pailey during the last few years by way of email correspondence. She is very respectful and kind. Irrespective of her busy schedule, Prof. Pailey finds the time to respond to the issues that I raise. For instance, not knowing that she would be saluted by the Daily Observer today, I emailed her yesterday in order to congratulate her about her professorial duties at the prestigious LSE. To my utter surprise, Prof. Pailey’s reply was found in my inbox this morning, 03/10/21.

    I am also proud of:
    Miss Urey, Miss Beyan-Livingstone and Miss Brewer. In my view, Prof. Pailey as well as the three mentioned ladies are positive role models for the people of Liberia. Their respective political affiliations should play no role in what they do. I sincerely wish them well.

    Finally, Miss Pailey, if you ever come across my comment, please do not disclose my first name. There’s a bad-boy African who surfs the ‘net every day in search of my full name.

    Peace.

  2. Mr. Hney,

    The next female you should be proud of is your SIL. She just walked out of the halls of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law with a Degree in Law.

    We hope that you are faring well after your accident. Remember now, you pappy, you not young boy anymore.

    The women of Liberia, yea Africa, are a strong breed and slowly, but surely, their time is coming and we, the men, need to encourage them that the sky is the limit

    Today is Decoration Day and to all who has lost loved ones, we say sorry, and that includes you, Mr. Sylvester G. Moses. I am sure they are all in a better place.

    Thank you

  3. Mr. Hney,

    Just so you know, i have decided to team up with Mr. P. Dolo to go on a massive hunt to find your first name.

    Just for the fun of it.

    Senior brother Dolo, my wife is now a lawyer, so if we break any law in searching for Grand Fere’s first name, not to worry, my wife will defend us.

    Thank you

  4. BIL Kimba,
    It’s a sincere pleasure to hear from you once again. I’m particularly elated to hear that your beloved wife has graduated from Arthur Grimes, the law school at the University of Liberia. Congratulations. Good job!

    Be informed that I bought approximately six packs of seeds. I can buy a few more. The seeds can only be mailed if you provide your address. Just be informed that when I mail the seeds, I will use the name “Hney”, example…… Mr. Hney”. If that’s not being cool, I don’t know what could be cooler than that. The ball is in your court.

    I would like to visit Liberia once again this year. The Covid-19 pandemic poses a problem. Hopefully, not Trump, but Biden will defeat the dreaded disease before the end of this year. If that happens, I will travel by His grace. My other problem is this…. for heaven’s sake, I need a car in Liberia. I’m tired of renting cars. Never again.

    The Kimba-Dolo alliance:
    Let me be upfront with you. If you align yourself with the Defender, you will be immediately labeled as the “mini Defender” and he of course is the “Grand Defender/Apologist”.

    On the national level, the Defender hasn’t put forth a cogent argument as to why his demigod should be elected to the presidency. The opposition parties (of which the Grand Defender is a staunch supporter) are badly fractured. Do you know why? The answer can be summed up in two words….”extreme weakness”. Because of extreme weakness, some of the Grand Defender’s clients cannot kill a rat, let alone a chicken.

    What are the Grand Defender’s strengths on the international scene? Well, he doesn’t fare well either.
    On the international level, mon petit frere hasn’t come to grips about how Trump was badly defeated at the polls. But he predicted that Trump would win.

    BIL, you may get on the Defender’s bandwagon if you wish. But, I’ve got four powerful women in my corner, Joe Jr and James Davis. If Davis let’s out 18 laughs, you will grab your Jack Daniel’s Brandy Wine. With regard to those powerful ladies, it’s always good to have reliable women in one’s nook.

    I’ve got something that you should read. In fact, I recommend this for everyone.

    Main characters:
    (1) Milton S.J. Wright and
    (2). Adolph Hitler

    In your browser, you will type…. “Milton S. J. Wright, the first black man who met Adolph Hitler for 3-4 hours”.

    Mini background:
    Wright was an African American academic who obtained his Doctoral degree in Economics from a German University in 1932. Go from there.

    Be cool. Hang in there pal.

  5. Hney,

    I have a little brother who works at the US Embassy in Monrovia. He has 2 cars. I can make him to lend you one during your stay provided you provide me with your full name in my inbox.
    So, the ball is in your coat: always get a car free of charge at your disposal that will be fueled for you by providing your full name or rent one during your stay by withholding your full name. You can make a choice!

    Brother Kimba, congratulations to your wife. Tell her to get ready to fight many cases for us.
    Case Number One: Summon to come to Liberia of Grand Frere Hney in 2024 to help reform the educational system.
    We must ensure Grand Frere Hney is back in Harper or Pleebo to taste some ‘pepperish’ palm butter soup that will make him to think about Liberia and make him stay.
    Then I will take him on my farm in the forests of Mount Nimba to swallow some GB with some nice bamboo worms to grow some muscles to enable him to withstand the stress to bear when dealing with us (Liberians) in the educational sector.

    Brother Kimba, if you align with me, your wife, children and extended family members will be proud because they will always hold their heads up high to freely travel the length and breadth of Liberia. They will fear no foes and will in fact, be always met with friendly population to open doors for them.

    I will NEVER support clients who kill rats or chickens. I prefer the weak guys like Cummings and Dillon.
    You see little Macron of France, do you think he can kill a chicken? NO! But he’s successfully presiding over a country with one of the fiercest fighting armies and richest economies in the world.
    Let the strong people give the weak people chance small, my people. I wish I could have Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, a “weak man”, as senior senator for Nimba and people of similar description, like Flomo Tokpa of Bong, represent the people of Liberia.
    If such dream can come true, Liberia will NEVER be heard of on the news, like many Caribbean, European, Asian and few African nations.

    Trump is the legal president of the USA from 2021 to 2024, and he will win again in 2024. Grand Frere, aren’t you seeing how people are going to jail daily for the 2020 election fraud?
    Investigations are still ongoing, let Biden have his day. But be watchful, there may be an unprecedentedly BIG surprise soon for the entire world.

  6. Mon petit frere,
    Merci boucoup, but no thanks! You sound very magnanimous. Being kind and generous is fantastic, but I am skeptical. Had the offer been made without the issue of my name being the focal point, I probably, just probably would have considered the offer.

    I have been advised to buy and ship a car to the motherland. I’m seriously considering that proposal. So yes, the ball is certainly in my “court”, not coat. The usage of the word “court” in this particular situation refers to a place of physical activity. Example, a basketball court….. “The ball is in your court” means “it’s up to you”.

    Yes, petit frere, we can go to Nimba. I have no problems with that. In fact, I would like to buy and ship a small hunting rifle. When we get in the thick forests of Nimba, I will shoot at big birds from the trees. If there’s a match box, we will make fire and roast our quails or whatever I kill. That’s the kind of vacation I am looking forward to. I will buy your ticket or pay for your gas (if you drive) from the Ivory Coast to Liberia. I mean it! But the issue of GB sends goosebumps through my spine buddy. Especially GB with worms? Yak! I will make a polite pass. Let me tell you a secret. I don’t swallow fufu. True story. That’s not because I have lived in the US for so long. My metabolism is unable to digest fufu, and so I chew the yucca or cassava. It’s been a life-long issue for me. Lastly, the soil of Nimba is one of the best! It’s a known fact! My father’s youngest brother (an uncle) used to live in Tappita. He was married to a Nimbaian. Ivorians have good soil for cassava as well.

    How To Enjoy Cassava….. Hney’s Recipe

    Cut, clean and cook your (yucca) cassava. While the cassava boils, add one or two Maggi Cubes in the pot. After your cassava has been cooked, fry it. Then chew your fried cassava with baked fish (off a grill) or fry your fish. Be careful with your oil consumption.

    No, no no. Cook the cassava. C o o k the cassava, well done. Then fry it! Don’t say “it’s strange”. Cook the cassava, drain the water. Then fry it. That’s the recipe. Please try it!

    Petit Frere, I am not a History major. I read a lot about historical people and issues. When I come across individuals of interest, I share the information. So, download the short story of Milton S. J. Wright. Wright’s encounter with Hitler is interesting.

    Mon frere, let’s be honest. The people who are being sought are the Trump-inspired insurrectionists. According to what we’ve heard, up to 300 insurrectionists have been identified. If the identified insurrectionists are found guilty, they will certainly do the time. And that will teach them a lesson.

    Surprise!
    Biden’s overall rating is in the mid 60s! But throughout his presidency, Trump’s rating did not reach 55% out of 100. Trump has no memorable signature achievements.

    Later

  7. Hney: So yes, the ball is certainly in my “court”, not coat.
    Thank you for this correction. Serious mistake with homophones.

    I will offer you the vacation you love in 2024 or 2025. You will love it out there in the woods hunting down game with your rifle. By the way, don’t come to Liberia with your rifle now, or else Weah will accuse you of coming to kill him. Wait until we (ANC) can come to power, then plan the trip in 2024 or 2025, I will make you to like and enjoy Nimba.

    Buying my ticket or gasoline – it sounds nice but unnatured to a raw or country Mano man like me. When I invite you to my village, I provide you with everything. It is not done the other way around. So, don’t worry about buying me ticket or buying my gasoline. I will send you a car with a driver to bring you from Monrovia. Your small car may not make it beyond Ganta.
    You may not also worry about feeding or lodging, we can take care of that. We will also make you to sleep in the woods to listen to the terrifying cries of birds and wolves in the thickest of night. My advice to you, come with climbing shoes, at least 2 pairs because I know you are a kwee man and will be afraid of hurting your toes when we enter the thick and verdure forests. Night hunting is especially interesting and very much amusing, get ready for it.

    Let me just tell you something about the typical (real) mano man: We are a proud people! We do not beg for bread. We labor and feel proud to feed ourselves from the fruit of our labor, no matter how meagre. We are uncomfortable receiving things free of charge most of the time, that’s why we always yearn to have peace to enable us to fend for ourselves and not live on humanitarian gestures. Check this out!

    Liberia, in general, has good soil for farming. If I were the president of Liberia, I would provide the incentives for the people of Nimba, Grand Gedeh and upper Bong to indulge in Cocoa and Café farming, Grand Cape Mount will be specialized in tomato and other vegetables, Lofa and Lower Bong for rice growing, and the counties along the sea coast for Palm, Rubber, cassava and other food and cash crops while other garden eggs would be farmed in any other counties.

    Our hypocritical successive governments have pretended to promote agriculture, yet not even capable of setting aside $100 kilo per year on it.
    They have foolishly called for the promotion of agriculture, yet they do not upgrade and improve CARI to train the best researchers in the sub region.
    They pretend to encourage agriculture, yet those who venture into such field are the least paid in the country, in contrast to other countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

    Grand Frere, my offer still stands, and I know you are tempted to take it but riled by my consistent antagonism of your man Weah.
    Frankly, I like you. You may be more educated, richer or even better civilized than I am, but I respect and uphold my religious ethics and cultural values: I am NOT a hypocrite.
    When I like you, as I do for Hney, though I have not seen him, I say it. When I don’t like you, I avoid you to not sin against my God.
    I do NOT like Weah as president of Liberia! I like him as footballer. I would have loved to see him invest in Liberia after his football career to create jobs and improve lives like players from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, etc.
    Ask the Senegalese to tell you about the number of companies and jobs MANE, the Liverpool star, has created and is still creating.
    Ask Ivorians how many jobs Yaya TOURE, DROGBA, KALOU, etc. have created and still creating.

    Weah, a countryman from Sasstown, Grand Kru, does NOT know that his county is lagging. Can you believe your ears? This is the topmost level of hypocrisy!
    Don’t hate me for Weah. I like him too, but he’s doing more harm to Liberia than any legally elected president Liberia has ever known!

    Le Président Weah est aux abois, Grand Frère !

  8. Mr. Hney:

    Thank you for the seeds that you have acquired thus far. There is a family member in the State of Rhode Island – I dont know how far it is from where you live – who is coming to Liberia sometimes ending April and if you can tell me how, I can send the address to you so you can figure out how to send it there. Again, thank you.

    On the line of transportation, I am sure that I can help you with that, but you have to be willing to ride an old Toyota Pick-up because that is what I have to do my business with. I cannot promise that your SIL will allow you to use her car, because I who the husband, am never allowed to touch it. the only time I am allowed to touch it is when I am changing a tire of am going to wash it. But, you never know, she could allow you to use it because both of you are from the same region.

    I am afraid that I will have to side with “Petit Frere” Dolo to encourage you to work with the Educational Sector to lend your expertise to help strengthen it a bit. No need to tell you that it is solely lacking. The bamboo worm, we wont force you to eat it, but I can tell you that it is full of nutrients. I ate it a lot growing up in Harbel.

    I myself will drive him to Maryland so that he can taste the wonderful palm butter that is cooked on that side and I will bring him to his abode. So, yes, Mr. Dolo, in your “fight” against Mr. Hney, you have an ally.

    I dont know about the four ladies you have in his corner, and how long they will remain loyal to you and how long they will stay in your corner but I do know that JBM, Jr. is in our corner and as for Mr.James Davis, he will do nothing but laugh all day.

    So we good.

    Thank you

  9. Mon Petit Freres:
    Grand Apologist (Dolo) &
    Mini Defender, (Kimba)
    It’s a pleasure hearing from both of you! I am very sorry I didn’t respond soon enough. Due to a rough schedule, I was unable to get a lot of things accomplished.

    Mini Defender, please leave Joe, Jr. out of the Dolo-Kimba alliance. No. Joe Jr. cannot and will not abandon me like that.

    Mr. Mini Defender, just go ahead and send your address. I will mail the seeds to you. Another thing you could do is this….ask your buddy who lives in Rhode Island to give you his address. Send the address to me.
    Okay it’s 10pm. I am going to bed! By His grace, I will hear from y’all tomorrow.

    PS…
    Mini Defender:
    Unfortunately, I still don’t have the seeds for the hot Jamaican pepper. I checked at Home Depot last week. Strangely, the hot Jamaican pepper is unavailable for now. Just give me some time.

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