Monrovia – Rural Women from various counties, gathered at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) outside of Monrovia, dancing with their traditional instrument and shaking bunches of locally grown rice to welcome their colleagues who returned from climbing Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Report by Mae Azango [email protected]
“We started climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on October 10, and the first day was four hours walk, and it was very cold.
The second day was 10 hours, the third day was like 13 hours, and fourth day it was 9-10 hours before reaching the peak, and went beyond the cloud.
The fourth day we reached at the base camp called Kepo, but it was not easy, because we were out of oxygen, but we still insisted to go on”
– Marie Clarke of Rural Women of Gbarpolu
Dancing in front of the Airport’s entrance, the women held a banner of rural women, waved their rice bunches which signifies farming life and other vegetables in the air. In no time, they were joined by Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassel, who danced along with the women before her departure to Ivory Coast.
The two women came through the entrance holding the Liberian flag, Marie Clarke, one of the women who returned from the tedious trip, said they were 32 rural women from all over Africa, who depend on the soil for survival that climbed the mountain to get their voice heard.
“When we arrived the first day before climbing the mountain, we were told that it would be at our own risk if anything happens and we agreed and said we were not turning back, because we wanted our voices to be heard.
Climbing the mountain is 36 kilometers and coming down, is 36 kilometers, so the total is 72 kilometers, but we came out victorious and we were awarded certificates of honor for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,” Marie said.
Also returning from the trip in Tanzania was Jesadeh Barzon, President of Grand Gedeh Rural Women, who said the needs of rural women are the same everywhere. According to her, rural women came from all over Africa to gather in Tanzania for their voices to be heard.
She added that old and young women had to climb the highest mountain on the continent for their voices to be heard, because the rights of women are also human rights.
“We came up with our demands such as land and investment, early marriage and inheritance rights. I must say we are better in Liberia when it comes to land investment, because women from polygamy background in other African countries do not have the rights to their husbands or their parents’ inheritance.
Therefore, as African women, we all have to hold in solidarity as women to make our leaders know that we are human beings and we deserve to have our rights, because some women do not even have land to make farms,” Madam Barzon.
According to her, with their return, they will intensify the demand for the rights of women, especially rural women because in most cases, parents only turn over properties to their male children while the females are being neglected.
“If our demands are not heard this time around, we will move on that mountain in protest until they meet our demands. We are going to present those demands in Liberia because some of these laws are here in Liberia, but they are not implemented, and we want them to be implemented because as rural women, we are part of the society,” she said.
Damowa M. Biah, Program Manager of Action Aid Liberia, said women’s rights are human rights; therefore, they should be treated as humans. And the bravery exhibited by the Liberian Rural women is worth celebrating. She commended the women’s courage for represent Liberia and the rural women in the fight for land rights.
“Women should be master of the land they work on because these women fetch fire wood and farm on the land to feed themselves and their families.
So they should have rights to the land. Not because company is coming to develop the land, so women should be left out. Action Aid stands with the women symbolically to ensure women rights over land,” Biah noted.