The Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security on Friday, March 24, ended a nationwide forum focused on improving women’s participation in all forms of governance and decision making.
The forum titled “Women in Governance and Planning Processes”, funded by the United Nations Mission in Liberia was launched on February 27, 2017, simultaneously in Voinjama, Lofa County, Barclayville, Grand Kru County and Bopolu, Gbarpolu County. Since then, the project has been taking place in the remaining fifteen counties across the country.
The closing ceremony, which took place at the end of the Montserrado Forum at the ABIC training center in Fendell was graced by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), UNDP, UN Women, the Mayor of the city of Bentol and representatives of the Mayor of the City of Monrovia. The Project was financed as one of UNMIL’s Quick Impact Projects (QIP).
In remarks at the closing program, Ms. Younger Fahn, who spoke on behalf of the participants, called for the continuation of such forum, as well as continuous community engagement with traditional leaders in order to help to alleviate traditional concepts that restrict women role in governance.
For her part, the Program Manager of ABIC, Mrs. Henrietta Tolbert, who spoke on behalf of the facilitators pointed out the challenges faced in the execution of the project, including bad road condition, limited finance to accommodate the huge number or participants that turned out among others.
Making special remarks, the Gender Advisor at UNMIL, Maria Nakabiito lauded ABIC for the successful implementation of the project and noted that UNMIL was pleased to commit funds to such as initiative because the issue of women’s participation in governance is very essential to its mandate. She noted that even though UNMIL is drawing down in Liberia, she is confident that national partners, such as ABIC can take over in moving the agenda of women forward. She called on participants to reach out to others in spreading the message of gender equality and women’s participation in governance.
In response, the chairperson of the board of directors of ABIC, Hon. Olubanke King-Akerele, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia praised UNMIL for the support and emphasized the need for participants to ensure the message of the project has a ripple effect on the larger society, as proposed by the UNMIL Gender Adviser in her remarks. Hon. King-Akerele highlighted some of the major outcomes of the forum including the identification of some of the barriers that continue to have negative effect on women participation in governance. She stated that the target should not only be at the national legislature or the level of the presidency, but all forms of decision making processes from the rural to the urban areas. She called on partners to ensure that the project is taken to another level to help enhance women’s participation in governance ahead of the forthcoming 2017 elections in Liberia.
Also making separate remarks during the program were representatives from UN Women Liberia, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and the Mayor of the city of Bentol, all of who expressed delight with the project, noting that it is a first step and a meaningful way to influence women’s participation in local decision making. Mayor Christine Tolbert Norman, specifically encouraged women to take up leadership roles in ther respective communities. She stated that the natural tendency of women to ‘nurture’ makes them more capacitated for leadership role.
The Forum in each county brought together over fifty participants comprising of representation from grassroot women organizations, youth groups community and traditional leaders amongst others, with at least sixty percent of participants made of women.
The Forum centered on understanding gender concept, gender equality and mainstreaming, women’s rights as human rights including the right to participate in democratic process such as the right to vote and be voted for. The Forum also discussed the barriers that are affecting women participation in governance and strategies to overcome the various barriers that were highlighted, including lack of finance, limited education and negative cultural practices against women such the traditional mentality that restricts women from leading men.