New York – Was she or wasn’t’ she granted a visa to the United States of America?
That’s the question many Liberians are pondering over the current whereabouts of Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
Last week, Monrovia was abuzz in speculations that the Vice President was denied a visa to travel to the U.S. where she was schedule to attend the sixty-second session of the Commission of Women schedule to take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from March 12 to 23rd 2018.
Responding to the inquiries on the issue, the United State Embassy declined to address the matter in details but only stated that its privacy laws restrict the embassy from discussing status of applicants for visas.
“Following inquiries from some media institutions about a U.S. Visa issue concerning Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, herein is the response of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. U.S. privacy laws prohibit us from discussing any person’s visa application status, immigration status, or citizenship status with anyone other than the person in question.”
The Vice President’s office immediately dismissed the reports while acknowledging that the Embassy had simply not returned all members of the VPs delegation’s passports, including the VP as they were doing some background check.
The controversy heightened Monday after the First Lady of Liberia, Clar Marie Weah, not the Vice President, delivered the special remarks at a Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) side event organized by Liberia in New York.
Mr. Isaac Redd, Director of Communications of the House of Representatives posted on his personal Facebook page last week that the Vice President was on her way to New York. “Accra-Tel Aviv-Accra-Monrovia.
Safe travels Madam VP Jewel Howard-Taylor.” One source hinted to FrontPageAfrica that the Vice President may be on a medical trip to Israel and may arrive in the US later this week.
In 2017, Madam Howard-Taylor, then a Senator for Bong County came out publicly to address a similar controversy after reports emerged that she had been denied visa to travel to the US, posting on her personal Facebook page:
“On my Way to New York and Washington, DC to participate in the 2017 CSW, God’s blessings are always complete. Jewel-Howard-Taylor.”
This year however, there have been no clarification from the vice president. Her spokesperson, Solomon Ware did not respond to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry at the writing of this report.
On Monday, the First Lady who represented Liberia along with Gender Minister Piso Saydee Tarr, urged women to build a culture of competitiveness and take advantage of gender equality laws crafted specifically to increase women's participation in politics, society and the economy.
Reflecting on the event's theme: Rural Women and Girls Economic Empowerment, Madam Weah said it was time to empower rural women by giving them land ownership and access to credit to increase their agriculture output and provide much needed income. She believes such action would reverse some cultural practices that intentionally create gender inequality.
“It would be a major achievement if one of the key outcomes of this gathering would be to find ways to equip our mothers, sister and children living in rural Liberia with the skills and competences so that they become a driving force for a sustainable economic growth and social welfare in Liberia” she stressed.
According to dispatch from Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the First Lady pledged to dedicate her service and mobilize the support of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah to ensure that actions are taken to address the plight of rural women and girls.
The First Lady used the occasion to announce the formation of the 'Clar Hope Foundation' to restore the hope of disadvantaged children, youth and women through education, health and other opportunities to better their lives.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection Williametta Saydee Tarr described the event as an opportunity to tell the Liberian story. She noted that rural women have been the backbone of women’s economic empowerment in Liberia and it is critical to highlight their best practices and the key lessons in achieving the results and change they desired.
Thanking UN Women, Sweden and Canada for their support in empowering Liberian women and girls; Minister Tarr expressed the hope that Liberia will draw the attention of donor countries to consider support for sustaining the gains already made on the social and economic empowerment of women and girls in rural areas.
Sharing her story as a beneficiary, Ma Kebbeh Mongar, National President of the Rural Women Structure explained that she and other rural women benefitted from adult literacy programs, leadership trainings, business management, and mobile banking services.
Madam Mongar who displayed packaged products created by rural women at the event, said the interventions from the Government and UN Women have made a huge difference in their lives. She called for more support to empower more women and girls in rural Liberia.
Meanwhile, partners including UN Women and Canada have assured that they will continue to work with Liberia to ensure the full accomplishment of gender equality and economic empowerment of women and girls.
The Vice President’s omission is raising new speculations amid suggestions that she may still be paying for the sins of her former husband, former President Charles Ghankay Taylor.
She declared in a VOA Daybreak Africa interview last year that old prejudices that come with her former husband’s name will come to pass, especially as she continues to make what she called "a positive impact on the landscape of Liberia and the international community."
The former first lady was placed on the UN Travel Ban almost nine years ago after her husband was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed while serving as president of Liberia.
At the height of the 2017 elections, Howard-Taylor was recorded in an interview stating that if the CDC-led government was elected, the Taylor agenda would be brought back to the table.
Addressing reporters in Saclepea, Nimba County this week, Senator Howard-Taylor said although former President Taylor is not involved in Liberian politics, she believes that the NPP he created is a grassroot party that made promises to its citizens since 1997.
“Because of what happened in our government and the abrupt closure and arrest of former president Taylor we were not able to fulfill those promises.