Monrovia – First lady Clar Duncan Weah was on Wednesday joined by her husband, President George Weah and top government officials to launch her ‘She’s You Personal Hygiene Initiative’ in support of women and adolescent girls.
Speaking at the launch of the event which took place at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia, Madam Weah said her latest initiative was her way of expressing her solidarity and support to women and girls, especially those with disabilities in order to lead and guide them in advancing their menstrual hygiene as they grow into productive ladies for tomorrow.
“The She’s You Menstrual & Personal Hygiene Initiative espouses the view that dignity is not a luxury; rather, it is a human right,” she said.
“It is also about ensuring that women and girls live in an environment that values and supports their ability to manage their menstruation with dignity. And that is why the She’s You Movement here in Liberia has vowed to make sure that this becomes a reality.”
She added “That is why we believe that menstrual hygiene is vital to the empowerment and well-being of women and girls worldwide. I am of the firm conviction that it is about more than just access to sanitary pads and appropriate toilets – although these are important.”
In most developing countries including Liberia, menstruation has adverse effects on women and girls, often leading to stigma, missed opportunity- girls skipping school because of pain, discomfort or lack of personal hygiene products and loss of dignity- where basics like soap and water are in short supply or unavailable.
Madam Weah acknowledged the menaces associated with menstruation and revealed that this year, the office of the First Lady has decided to collaborate with the Clar Hope Foundation and the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Gender, to elevate the conversation on menstrual hygiene with the goal to educate and empower the most vulnerable women and girls, particularly those living with disabilities.
“We acknowledge today that, although menstruation is a natural process, it is sadly linked with many misconceptions and practices, which sometimes result in adverse health outcomes. In fact, in many quarters and corners of our Liberian society, speaking of menstruation is a taboo, a forbidden conversation, which leads to the detriment of many young girls. Today, we want to positively and constructively raise the bar, bringing this conversation out into the open, to the cognizance and awareness of us all.”
To a thunderous applause, she announced that a machine that manufactures disposable sanitary pads is expected in Liberia, adding it was given by Dr. Rasha Kelej of the Merck Foundation. The cheer grew louder when President Weah, on ‘behalf of his children’, pledged another machine to Madam Weah’s initiative.
The event was graced by several officials including members of the Women Legislative Caucus, the cabinet and the diplomatic corps.
Newly elected Senator Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu County joined Rep. Rosanna G.D. H. Schaack, the head of the Women’s Legislative Caucus in pledging their support to Madam Weah’s initiative. Madam Kanneh called on the First Lady to extend her initiative to Gbarpolu County.
On behalf of the Cabinet, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Maxwell D. Kemayah pledged US$25,000 to the initiative, while the heads of Government’s agencies, represented by Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe, pledged US$50,000.
Dr. Jerry Brown of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, on behalf of his family pledged US$5,000.
Meanwhile, several hundred high school female students from across Montserrado County and its environs formed part of the event. Each of them received a kit containing sanitary materials including pad and other items.
“I am delighted to be here and given the opportunity to speak to my friends about menstrual cycle. I am very thankful to our mother (First Lady) for the help she has given us,” said Salomie H. Weah, a 12th grade student of the Carver Mission Academy.
Miss Weah stole the show prior to the commencement of the event when she wooed with her powerful motivation speech, calling on her peers to defeat the negative vices associated with menstruation to pursue their dreams.
Student Tina Morris, also of Carver Mission said: “We are very grateful to Madam Weah for thinking about us. We pray that she will extend her initiative to other parts of the country to enable our friends to benefit as well.”
Musu Kamara Kunet of the Muslim Congress added: Today we learned a lot. And on behalf of my friends and my school, I extend my thanks and appreciation to the First Lady for this initiative.”