After being considered a failed state as a result of over 15 years of anarchy perpetrated by imprisoned former President Charles G. Taylor, a good image of Liberia began to surface again in the global community with the election of the first African female head of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
President Sirleaf may not be the only face of Liberian women across the globe as she, along with compatriot Leymah Gbowee, were two of the three recipients of the prestigious Nobel Prize for peace in 2011. This success and high recognition came not only by the efforts of these two, but many other women who stood with them over the years.
The ascendency of President Sirleaf to the nation’s highest political seat, many thought, meant the emancipation of Liberian women from domestic slavery, hard labor, illiteracy and poverty because it was from among these women that she had risen.
Her election, coupled with the global recognition of her and Madam Gbowee, however, helped to raise the image and prestige of Liberian women across the globe. But the most fascinating aspect about this global picture is that it is quite different from the actual happenings on the ground. There is a totally different story on the ground, many prominent women have said.
Though President Sirleaf has done much to elevate Liberian women with the appointment of many of them in her government, earmarking funds for market women and the establishment of the rural women’s development association across the country and other initiatives benefiting women, disunity continues to keep them down, many have observed.
One of those women who is of this view is a veteran women’s rights and social activist, Mother Mary Brownell. There is much division among Liberian women with a big split between rural women, majority of whom are uneducated, and their educated sisters who allegedly look down on their rural counterparts. Even the educated ones are divided among themselves, she said.
Making a statement during a women’s conference organized by Kvinna Till Kvinna (KTK) in Monrovia on Wednesday, Mother Brownell observed that Liberian women do not like to see their fellow women excel and always act like crabs by pulling each other down.
“We the women have this crab mentality that if it is not me it should not be her and this is not helping us.
The KTK conference seeks to form a movement that is designed to unite Liberian women in order to seek one another’s welfare, especially as the 2017 political season approaches. Mother Brownell, who was very prominent and vocal in the activism that helped bring peace and an end to the Liberian civil crisis, said the problem that continues to impede women’s progress in the country is disunity.
She said women, first and foremost, do not respect each other. “Forming a movement like this is commendable, but is not the solution to our problem as women in this country, but it is how we regard one another. We call each other all sorts of names and this is not helping us. We look down upon our colleagues too much.
“I want to be very frank with you as your big sister, mother and grandmother. One problem we have in Liberia is disunity among ourselves,” Mother Brownell acknowledged.
Mother Brownell frowned on the attitude of those in leadership positions who forget how important it is to have a cordial relationship with their colleagues. “When they get into positions as a result of the efforts of their fellow women, they often forget about them.”
She said until women in leadership can do away with this mentality, they will continue to be in the shadow of their male counterparts, unlike in other countries where women and men are competing at the same or almost the same level.
Many Liberian women leaders, said Mother Brownell, are mean and selfish, which is leading to a majority of women, especially those from the countryside, continuing to live in abject poverty, ignorance and illiteracy.
One of the country’s most prominent women advocates, Madam Ruth Caesar, said also that Liberia women have never been able to unite under an umbrella organization, but have always collaborated on arising issues, such as the civil crisis, the EVD and the Constitution revision exercises.
There is a need for women to be more unified because this is the only way the country will move forward,” Mother Brownell declared, adding “women are the ones that make things happen.”
She said there is no need for women to look down on each other, “because we all are women. Our mother and sister, President Sirleaf, has set the standard and we all must help each other to try and maintain that standard, but we cannot do this when we are divided,” she insisted.
The lack of support from women for their fellow women was clearly evident in the recent electoral process that was held across the country. Although they are in the majority, Mother Brown observed, “they preferred to vote for men because they don’t want their woman friend to get there, all because they are not the ones. If we want to succeed in this country we must learn to support each other and stop the crab mentality.”