Liberia: Female Town Chief Benefits From Gbowee Peace Foundation Training

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CAREYSBURG – Patience Kamara, 25, is a Muslim who is the Assistant Town Chief of Urey Farm community in Careysburg. Patience never thought she would be elected as a community leader at a young age. Now, she is making decisions to protect women’s rights in her community.

While speaking at a women’s peace brigade training in Bensonville, organized by Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa in collaboration with EU/UN Women Spotlight initiative and the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, Patience recounted how she successfully intervened in a case involving a man, who nearly killed his wife.

Explains Patience: “One time a man in our community beat his wife and threatened to kill her with a cutlass, and when she ran to a friend’s house, he followed. I intervened and invited the police, but since he continued to act violent, I told the police to take him South Beach, (Monrovia Central Prison) to be detained for few months to teach him a lesson. After he was released, he moved to another community because he said I was wicked and did not like him. I did not feel bad sending him to prison because he was going to kill his wife”.

The general Town Chief is also a woman and a Christian, but the two of them co-ordinate pretty well to lead the community. They usually face challenges “because the men are angry, they were not elected to power, so they do not respect our authority”. 

“During the early stage of the coronavirus, when we called the men to go and cut the reef to fix the well, but they refused,” Kamara said.

“They said since we are the big people in power, we should call our husbands to cut the reeds to fix around the well. The men do not respect us, and when we call them to meeting, they do not attend yet, we were voted into power over them. But we will stay focus and don’t allow them [to] bring us down.”

The brigade training, which has been held in three communities in Montserrado, Todee, Bensonville, and Caldwell. There will also be training in two other communities in Sinkor and Paynesville.

At the Caldwell community, 10 women peace brigades sat under the voice of Cllr. Vivian D. Neal, President of the Female Lawyer Association of Liberia, (AFELL). Cllr. Neal chatted about Human Rights and Peace and security emphasizing on political and domestic violence. 

She added that “political violence normally happens, during political campaigns and rallies and sometimes youth enter violence due to peer pressure”.

Speaking on domestic violence, the AFELL president stressed that most of these incidents occur in homes that cause physical, emotional, and psychological violence while admonishing the newly trained women peace brigades to report any of the violence.

Speaking on civil and traditional marriages, Cllr. Neal cautioned women to avoid holding traditional and civil marriages at the same time.

“Do not allow your husband to first do your traditional marriage before doing you civil marriage, because according to law, the first marriage holds, therefore the husband would have the right to take two or more wives,” she said.

The Gbowee Peace Foundation and partners said the training of the women is to sustain peace by mobilizing and empowering women in peace advocacy when addressing social vices in Montserrado, Lofa and Grand Gedeh Counties.

“The project, which is a part of the EU/UN Women Spotlight initiative being implemented by the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa in collaboration with the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund to increase the influence and effectiveness of women’s right groups and civil society organization to advance progress on gender equality and ending violence against women and girls and enhancing women and girls’ safety security and human rights,” said David Konneh, Program Manager of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa.

On the second day in Bensonville, Cllr. Sundaiway Nelson Amegashie and Cllr. Massa Mayson of AFELL spoke to the women about issues concerning political and election, and domestic violence. They stressed that politicians usually use the youth to protest and cause destruction.

“So, women, it is your responsibility to advice your children not to be used by politicians to cause problems to society,” said Cllr. Amegashie as Cllr. Mayson illustrated the details.

Speaking on women participation in politics, Cllr. Mayson said women should be on pal with men when contesting for public office.  

“Look at the situation of the naked photo circulating on social media of a lady running for political office in West Point; she was so shame and broken that she dropped from the race. But if women could have stood up in her defense, she could have won,” said Cllr. Mayson.

“When women support women to run, a woman will win, because Former President Sirleaf said it was the women who made her to win as president. We need to put more women in the legislature so that they can speak on women issues affecting us.”

After participants watched a movie “pray the Devil to Hell”, Mrs. Bernice Freeman of the Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET), explain how women struggled for peace in the movies.

“Women are afraid to lie in the street and block traffic to advocate for justice against rape, because many of us are scared,” said Madam Freeman.

“We have to stand up for our rights, the raping of our babies is too much in our country and we are keeping silent. We can also advise political parties to do away with political violence.” 

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