Monrovia – The former President of the Southeastern European state of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, has drawn parallels between her nation and Liberia, especially the resilience of women during the two countries’ recent conflicts and their contributions to post-conflict peace consolidation and development.
Above: President Jahjaga discusses the role of women in peacebuilding with Liberian activists at the Women’s Peace Hut.
President Jahjaga, who, after a successful career in public service--including 13 years in law enforcement--became the youngest woman in the world to be elected President, was in Liberia this week as one of the leaders of the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) international election observation mission.
While awaiting the new date for the runoff polls, Atifete Jahjaga took time to meet in Monrovia with Liberian women who have suffered sexual violence and others who are policy advocates on women’s issues. She also visited a shelter in Paynesville for children who have been victims of sexual abuse.
Kosovo is a landlocked country that emerged from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia at the end of the twentieth century.
“Kosovo and Liberia have many things in common”, President Jahjaga commented during her week-long stay here; “both of our nations came through terrible wars and had to rebuild. And in both nations it is women who paid the highest price during the war, and who continue to show resilience moving forward”.
In her visits with Liberian women, President Jahjaga shared stories about the Kosovo experience, emphasizing that, as in Liberia, thousands of people lost lives and more sustained long-lasting injuries, including an estimated 20,000 people in Kosovo who had been raped – mostly women.
“For too long”, Madam Jahjaga said; “their sacrifice was not recognized”. But during her mandate as President of Kosovo (2011-2016), Jahjaga said, it became a priority to render justice to these victims, including making them eligible for reparations.
“We had to recognise them for what they are”, she said; “the heroes of our country”.
Visiting the Women’s Peace Hut, President Jahjaga was briefed about the crucial role women activists play in maintaining the peace in Liberia. Organized by the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), the Women’s Peace Hut has been part of Liberian women’s hands-on approach to working for peace since the end of the conflict in Liberia. The women use this platform for women’s leadership in peacebuilding and to promote economic empowerment activities. During the electoral period, the Women’s Peace Hut works to promote peace among the many political actors.
Delphine Morris of WIPNET described the Peace Hut to President Jahjaga as “a space where truth and reconciliation are sacred, in order to renew Liberians’ fractured communities”.
In response, President Jahjaga urged the women to remain united and pray to maintain peace as well as to fight for women’s honor in Liberia.
During her visit to Liberia Madam Jahjaga met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, political party leaders, the Chairman of the National Election Commission, The Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP), and officers from the LNP Women and Children’s Protection Unit.