Liberia: ‘Women Must Lead and Not Be Second in Command’
Gbarnga, Bong County – Gbarnga was a place to be for women from the 15 counties, who are already in leadership positions one way or another. These women had gathered to exchange ideas to inspire other women in taking up leadership positions at a workshop.
The workshop titled, “Women Lead”, was organized over the weekend by the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa in partnership with African Women Development Fund.
Martha T. W. Sayklon, alias “Money in the Bush”, is a social worker, who runs an orphanage home of 59 children.
“It was former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who opened the eyes of women, when we thought women were only created to have babies for our husbands and to stay back at home to be security and mind the yard, and we are not paid. Most especially in Liberia, our husbands pay their girlfriends for sleeping with them, but not us who they wear up and take children out of us,” said Sayklon
Sayklon, who dominated the entire workshop, is formally uneducated. She is attending the adult literacy program and is presently in level three. At the moment, she can write her name. She encouraged her friends to always fight to be at the head and lead.
“I did not go to school but I am the PTA chair for Bromley Episcopal Mission School. I won the man who ran against me with 37 to five votes. So, I believe women can lead, even if she is not educated, because of the wisdom she has. Look at the female paramount chiefs, who did not go to school and she is a Paramount Chief. I want to tell my fellow women let us lead, it is not all the time we will be Vice President, second in command or co-workers. We also have to be at the head and lead,” she urged.
“Since I did not go to school, I use agriculture as a means of survival. When I started my women group, I told the women since we do not have office in the city, we should have office in the bush, because it is better to be town chief in the village than to be a beggar in the city,” said Sayklon.
Jamesetta Munah Cooper works with YMCA as county coordinator in Nimba County. She believes that women’s role in the society, is very important, so women should not be quiet on national issues anymore, but speak out to be recognized.
“Over 170 years, women have been in the background and because of women low status, and shaming women in communities, women always shy away from issues that affect them. Take for example, when it comes to rape and gender-based violence, we see these things to be bad in a community and when you want to speak on such issues, people feel that you are shaming your relatives. This workshop has empowered me to become voice of the voiceless women and help them claim what is rightfully theirs. My message to other women is no matter who you are, be it you are educated or not, you have wisdom which God has given you to make a difference,” she said.
Musu Kardamic, a social worker in Nimba County, said the workshop has added to her knowledge. And revealed that as social worker in Nimba, there are many challenges but when you are empowered to do something you cannot afford to become a victim or afraid.
“I have been able to work along with men in making men “he for she”, by inviting them to our meetings, after women’s husbands had accused them of going to see their lovers instead of going to the meeting,” said Kardamic
Madam Leymah R. Gbowee of Gbowee Peace Foundation said she was very happy to be in partnership with African Women Development Fund, which sponsored the program, because there are many issues women are faced with in Liberia. Ms. Gbowee said she was in a community where people were talking about drug addiction taking over the youth population and this is also affecting the mothers as well, because many women are very scared to be on the street late at night or risk being robbed.
“Due to the drug addiction, the domestic violence has increased, so this is everybody’s problem. Maybe a woman could be passionate about addressing one issue why another is passionate about another, but until we all can come together and put all of these passions into one big box; we will continue to see the problem we have,” she stressed.
The Nobel Peace Laureate encouraged the women to return to their various communities and recruit younger foot soldiers to advocate for other women to address many of the issues faced by women.