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
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 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.
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
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.