By Jimmy Shilue, Deimah McCrownsey and Monica Dolo
The Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP) is celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting the extra ordinary efforts of its female staff; women of Liberia and the world by extension, in their contributions to building sustainable peace and development. Established out of United Nations and Interpeace collaboration since 2006, P4DP has always remain committed to supporting gender equity and inclusivity in its activities. Liberia received, through Interpeace/P4DP, its first Peacebuilding Fund from New York Peacebuilding Fund as far back as 2007 through the ‘Emergency Window Fund’, to implement the Nimba Reconciliation project. As a manifestation of its gender equity practices, P4DP’s Nimba county team was led by Princess C. Coleman, known by her colleagues as ‘iron lady’ for her attitude of getting work done at all cost. Princess’ sense of discipline and hard work saw her being listed among the Peacebuilders of 2008. Apart from Princess, our organization benefited enormously from the talents and extra dedication of several female staffers, including, Wakpoah Warley, Yabadell Appleton, Georgette Dabieh, Princess Loveland, Evelyn Dagbason, Musu Copeya, Florence George, Hawa Gotomo, Eddine Dolo, Christina Mcgill Doe, Fatoumata Nabie Fofana, Ruth Brown, Bindu Passawe, Joyce Wilson, Vanesa Togba, and the list goes on.
P4DP could not have achieved its goal without these dedicated female staff. In building a peaceful and inclusive Liberia, we must think broadly leaving out societal stereotype of gender. As we have seen during and after the Liberian conflict, women have played and continue to play more constructive role in building the peace that we now enjoy yet they are often not recognized or included in major decision making process. Women’s rights advocates often encourage women equal participation and influence in the decision making process at all levels and areas in society, including Peacebuilding. As an organization, “we believe in the wisdom of listening, the power of participation, and the strength of informed dialogue to build trust – the foundation of Peacebuilding.”
Addressing the question, what International Women’s Day means, Monica Dolo, researcher and M&E officer for P4DP, said, “It signifies freedom for women and girls and a recognition that women existence is essential and women have potential to contribute to a positive and just world”. For her part, Deimah Kpar-Kyne- McCrownsey, researcher and FBA project officer, observed that “IWD is about women believing that what a man can do, woman can even do better, hence a need to have self-confidence, not limiting oneself but looking forward with great optimism and supporting as well as building the capacity of other women”. Administrative and Human resource assistant, Bendu Kawala, sees the day as “an appreciation of women’s efforts and participation within society. She said it is a day to inspire women and make girls to take advantage of opportunities rather than relying on men for everything”.
The Liberian crisis has shown that women worked across the political and social divide — sometimes crossing hostile ethnic and social lines to build peace. These sacrificial services prove that women possess the key for real peace and reconciliation. Indeed, from the days of our first intervention in Nimba County until now, our female colleagues are not only committed to assigned tasks but are reliable, hence deserve special recognition for their gallantry as we strive to protect the gains and ensure that our democratic process remains on course.
This year International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. This has taken the form of global marches and campaigns, including #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States of America and their counterparts in other countries, on issues ranging from sexual harassment and femicide to equal pay and women’s political representation. In Liberia, we have seen several initiatives, including the He4She campaign, 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and girls, etc.
For the International Women Day, P4DP is celebrating the day by engaging girls from selected schools in the Airfield and Lakpzee communities to listen to their thoughts of IWD at the same time providing motivational talks to help build self confidence in themselves. The ‘Spoken word’ session will be exclusively facilitated by female staff from P4DP and community members as a way of echoing the priority theme of this year. Furthermore, efforts will be made to draw attention to the rights and plights of Liberian rural women, who are often neglected in the national development agenda. Using research findings from its previous Framework for Assessing Resilience (FAR) study, we intend to shed light on the innovative efforts of rural women and their accomplishments.
In most developing countries, Gender inequalities are both the causes and enabling context of violence against women. Thus, eliminating it is a profound but also evolving, political challenge that requires addressing the unequal social, political and economic power held by women and men. Over the years, P4DP has been privileged to interact and collaborate with different women initiatives, to understand, document and profile work of women, especially traditional female leaders who have proven to understand, secure and advance the cause of women’s rights and justice over the last decade- a period when Liberia’s post-war reconstruction was profoundly shaped by the international aid. Although Liberia has made some gains in reducing gender inequality, patriarchal cultural value systems continue to give unfair advantages to men while at the same time undermine women’s opportunity to compete with men equitably. The Government of Sweden funded a three country Resilience study, involving Guatemala, Timor-Leste and Liberia. P4DP was responsible for the Liberian component of the research in 2014-2015. The study, among others, found that women in Liberia are underrepresented in mainstream sectors but mostly involved in the informal sector, which also leaves them with little protection and few options for organized articulation of their grievances about their abuses. As a result, women engage into various coping and survival strategies, which have positive and negative consequences.
On the basis of the rich findings from the two years research, P4DP will shortly undertake a project that seeks to highlight ‘Traditional Leadership and Alternative Modalities for Inducing Social Change’. The underlying rationale is twofold: celebrate localized rule of law success stories by unmasking shortcomings in the legal and judicial services, which poor rural and para urban women can not afford while at the same time critically dismantling a number of dominant analytical distinctions that implicitly inform a great deal of Development and Human Rights practice – and most particularly those programs that focus on women’s empowerment and gender discrimination. Our new Human Security initiative will profile some initiatives that adapted traditional justice principles in order to devise an alternative to socially unpalatable and newly imported “justice solution”, while at the same time still dramatically challenging—albeit on their own terms– certain aspects of a gender-discriminatory status quo.
Join the Platform for Dialogue and Peace in celebrating IWD by committing yourself to transform the momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and to celebrate the novelty of Liberian women, mostly rural and traditional women who are working relentlessly to induce social change and support women’s efforts to realize their full potential.