On June 9, 2014, the Angie Brooks International Centre for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security dedicated the Chief Suah Koko Centre for Rural Women’s Empowerment as part of activities commemorating five years of existence. The Chief Suah Koko Centre is constructed at the front entrance of the Cuttington University campus in Sua Koko, Gbarnga, Bong County in honor of Madam Suah Koko, a prominent and renowned Liberian female paramount chief in the eighteen hundreds. She is known historically as a legendary peacemaker and stateswoman, when women were rarely seen and even more rarely heard. Her diplomatic forays to get warring chiefs to join the Republic of Liberia and establish a strong nation is still unsurpassed.
The completion of the physical structure of the Chief Suah Koko Centre fulfills a promise by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the launch of the Angie Brooks International Centre for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in Fendell during the International Women’s Colloquium on March 8, 2009. During that event, President Johnson Sirleaf praised women, whose contributions to Liberia remain of great historical significance, pinpointing Madame Suah Koko, as a national hero. President Johnson Sirleaf stated that whereas, Angie Brooks was Liberia’s icon, admired and respected within the international circle, Madame Suah Koko was an emblem of peace and was hailed nationally for her numerous contributions to the Republic of Liberia. President Johnson Sirleaf noted that based on these contributions a centre, specifically for the empowerment and capacity building of rural women will be constructed in honour of Madame Suah Koko. The Angie Brooks International Centre then committed itself to secure funding for the construction of the Chief Suah Koko Center with the intent to create linkage between the two entities and to support the government of Liberia’s endeavor to empower women through the Ministry of Gender and Development.
The dedication for the newly constructed edifice was performed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the presence of senior government officials, traditional leaders, local authorities, national and international partners including the Executive Director of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), Dr. Theodosia Sowa at a colourful ceremony.
Performing the dedication at a jam-packed ceremony, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf challenged Liberian women to rise up to the challenge by empowering themselves now that the pace has been set for self-actualization. The first and only elected female president of Africa said the Centre was a promise fulfilled on a commitment to improving their lives. President Sirleaf said the honouring of Madam Suah Koko was the rural women’s version of the same honour bestowed on Madam Angie Brooks in whose name the Angie Brooks International Centre is established during the International Women Colloquium held in March 2009. Noting her happiness for the level of involvement of Liberian women in decision-making and leadership, the Liberian leader challenged rural women to seize the opportunity that the Centre will offer, which include but not limited to training, research and advocacy for their common good.
Speaking earlier, the Establishment Coordinator of the Angie Brooks International Center, Cllr. Yvette Chessen-Wureh, paid tribute to President Sirleaf for leading the way for sustained women advocacy in Liberia as demonstrated by the creation of women advocacy centers and at the same time honoring the two great Liberian women. She informed the Liberian leader that her involvement in the establishment of the Centers have further motivated women to get involved in leadership roles, decision-making, advocacy, and physical work though most of them are either half lettered or completely illiterate. “Most of the work you see Madam President in the construction of this Center was done by females who are students of the LOIC Gbarnga Satellite,” Cllr. Chesson-Wureh remarked, calling to the stage the young girls, who had volunteered with LOIC Gbarnga Satellite in the construction of the new edifice. Cllr. Wureh than announced that the giant pot in which the honoree cooked her food to offer strangers would be on display at the Center.
For his part, the President of Cuttington University, Dr. Henrique Tokpa, renewed his institution’s commitment to supporting the Centre, women rights and empowerment as evidence by the donation of the land on which the Center is built. Dr. Tokpa joined President Sirleaf and other speakers in urging the rural women to make use of the facility in advancing themselves through training and empowerment. Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor also expressed excitement that a Centre is now named in honor of someone she had honored before now.
The project started since 2010 with support from national and international partners including the Government of Canada and ECOBank Liberia. The Government of Liberia through the office of the President provided the remaining funding for the successful completion of the Chief Suah Koko Centre for Rural Women’s Empowerment.