Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence: The lioness of the Liberian Senate
Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence is a two-term Senator and the first female Senator of Grand Bassa County. She was born and raised in Liberia—a small country located on the west coast of Africa. She has experienced severe adversity, including surviving a raging civil war that engulfed her homeland for nearly 15 years. Through it all, she persisted.
By Fatoumata N. Fofana, BA, MSc., [email protected]gmail.com, Contributing Writer
A renowned women’s rights campaigner and social justice activist, Nyonblee was first elected to the Senate in 2013 and reelected during the 2020 midterm elections. Throughout her first term, she remained the only female in a senate that comprised 29 men. Yet, she resisted and defied every attempt of male chauvinists in the Senate directed at distracting her. She shattered every roadblock thrown her way while getting the work done for the people—no wonder she was nicknamed the lioness, the iron lady of the Senate.
As Senator, Nyonblee’s time, energy, and resources have been exclusively dedicated to amplifying the voices of Liberians, especially those at the lowest echelon of the country’s socio-economic ladder. She continues to battle big forces that threaten the economic and social wellbeing of the Liberian people.
Nyonblee currently serves as the political leader of Liberia’s second-largest opposition party, the Liberty Party. She led the formation of and chairs the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which comprises the country’s top four opposition parties. At the Senate, Nyonblee chairs the committee on Rules, Order, and Administration. She is also a ranking member of several other committees, including Ways, Means, and Finance; Public Accounts; Health and Gender; and Post and Post Telecommunications.
She holds a BSc in business management from the University of Liberia and an MBA in business administration/marketing from the Kutztown University in the United States of America (USA). She has obtained an advanced certificate in leadership from the United States Congress.
Working for the People
Nyonblee enjoys serving people from all backgrounds across Liberia. Notable among causes dear to her heart are:
- Women and children’s rights – she is a passionate advocate of the cause of women and children. Since her election, Nyonblee has remained a leading champion for women’s rights and has worked across the aisle to deliver protections for children, led the fight for gender equality, and taken steps to ensure women and children have access to needed social services.
- Good governance best practices – Nyonblee has relentlessly campaigned for good governance and leadership with integrity in government—always denouncing and speaking up against Liberia’s scarce resources being mismanaged. She is on record for her zero tolerance of appointed officials being confirmed while indicted in audit reports. She believes that any individual with a questionable image should have no place in government until proven otherwise. All Nyonblee demands is a government that is more fiscally responsible and transparent.
- Access to affordable healthcare and education – Nyonblee is leading the charge for ensuring affordable healthcare and quality education is within reach of the needy. She currently has multiple health and educational programs operating across the country. For example, her foundation, Nyonblee Cares, is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the socio-economic wellbeing of impoverished Liberians, regardless of religious or political affiliations. Established in 2010, Nyonblee Cares provides medical equipment to hospitals across Liberia. It also operates multiple mobile clinics in some of the country’s remotest parts—places where health care is nonexistent. Moreover, Nyonblee Cares provides financial and technical support to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) training programs at various colleges in Liberia.
It is imperative to note that Nyonblee is the first Liberian Senator to address the Pennsylvania State Senate, invited by PA Senate majority leader Patrick Brown. She used the opportunity to seek financial support for Liberia as the country struggled to battle the killer Ebola disease. She further took her activism to top-ranking members of the United States Congress, including Charlie Dent. Her efforts paid off when the US Congress approved $7 billion to fight the virus globally—Liberia was a beneficiary.
Before her service in the Senate
A goal-oriented, results-driven public servant, Nyonblee is a seasoned government marketer and brand promoter with a deep passion for serving the people. She served as public relations manager at Liberia’s Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) from 2006 to 2013. There, she acted as a bridgebuilder between the entity and its target audience. She ensured consistency across the institution’s messages, strengthening its brand and increasing its visibility beyond borders. While working to protect the company’s external image, Nyonblee worked unceasingly to enhance its internal brand—among employees. She joined the LPRC when the institution was teeming with 750 employees, tripling its intended size. Through effective rapport building and delivery of impeccable customer service [through collaborative actions], Nyonblee helped to streamline the entity’s operations by:
- Advocating for increased salaries and benefits
- Building capacity of coworkers for improved performance and increased productivity
- Campaigned for comprehensive retirement packages for employees
Nyonblee and her husband, Adolph Akwe Lawrence, became Liberia’s first legislative couple. Adolph was a geologist who joined politics in 2011 following his elections to the House of Representatives. When Nyonblee won in 2013 to become Grand Bassa’s lone female Senator, the couple became unstoppable. Adolph, however, lost his life to a tragic motor accident in 2019. He died on his 53rd birthday.
A native of Grand Bassa County, Nyonblee is a mother of two boys and a girl and seven adopted children. She hails from a reputable family. Her father is a bishop, humanitarian, and educator. Her mother is an educator and a renowned gospel singer. She has 12 siblings.