GBARNGA CITY, BONG COUNTY/CONGO TOWN – Not everyone wins an election or gets an award in a lifetime, least to mention clinching both accolades on the same day.
That’s exactly what Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai, the Director of the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), did. On Last Friday, she was elected to head the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL). On that very day also, she received the Women Advocacy Award of the 2019 Natural Resource Governance Awards.
Mrs. Pope-Kai finished nine votes ahead of Emma Younger Boldoe, who was the NCSCL’s treasurer, with 47 to 38 in a fierce contest for the chairmanship. The Council is the largest conglomerate of Liberian civil society organizations, community-based enterprises and grassroots groups across the country. She will serve a three-year term.
The two other contestants for the position—K.M. Barley Togba of the Civil Society Council of Grand Bassa County and Benjamin Tarnue, a former treasurer of the Council—received 25 and seven votes, respectively.
Mrs. Pope-Kai succeeds Frances Greaves, who served in the position for the last six years.
“I am so overwhelmed because this is a very big position in Liberia,” she said following the announcement of the results. “This is a revolution and the revolution is a young and professional woman with determination and urge to transform the council. This is an era of transformation. We have said it is never too young to lead. We stop stereotyping young people who want to get into leadership because of their age. It is never too young to lead. I am very proud of myself that among the four contestants, my colleagues chose me.”
Her manifesto focused on six things: to strategize rights defenders’ advocacy and protection of their rights; build the capacity of community-based organizations; communication sharing among groups at the local and county level; and inclusive participation for all and decentralization of the Council. Her manifesto also includes mainstreaming gender equality, empowerment of youth and people with disabilities; and networking, mobilizing resources and raising fund for the NCSCL.
“Under my leadership, the Council will network to raise funds for civil society organizations and community-based organizations,” she told FrontPage Africa. “I want to bridge the gap between smaller institutions and big civil society organizations. I want to market them to donors or link them to other organizations for grants and loans so that they, too, feel a part of the Council.”
Hours before Mrs. Pope-Kai’s election in Gbarnga, she had been named the recipient of the Women Advocacy Award of the National Resource Governance Awards 2019 held in Monrovia.
Edwin Kai, her husband, received the award on behalf of his wife.
“If my wife had not been given this award, I would have had a problem with her,” he joked
The NGO Coalition of Liberia, the organizers of the awards, said she was “giving a voice to rural women who have been denied of their share of the benefits of natural resources for generations.” The awards were established last year.
Mrs. Pope-Kai is a champion of women’s rights, with FCI working with rural communities, making awareness on the Land Rights Act and how they can claim their rights to land. Focusing on women’s rights land and their participation in land matters, she and FCI are coordinating the efforts of other civil society organizations in making sure they legally own their land and benefit from its resources.
Earlier this year, her advocacy with a coalition of two other groups—the Sinoe Women Platform and the National Institute for Public Opinion—led to the conviction and imprisonment of seven men for the murder and rape of three women in Sinoe County accused of “witchcraft”.
Mrs. Pope-Kai, mother of three, is also the regional vice president for the West African Network of young women leaders in the ECOWAS space, the national president for the West African Network of young women leaders-Liberia Chapter.
She has discussed issues on land rights and forestry governance around the world at the same time combating sexual and gender based violence across the country.
“Watch out for me,” she said.