Meet Liberia’s Classy Celebrant -Jewel Radiates With Strength, Elegance at 58

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Riddle-O-Riddle: On the West Coast of Africa there glitters a precious Jewel. A grassroots person with roots in average elitist, royal family but lives meek and humble, despite a widely acknowledged high level of education and high placement in government; never disconnected with the people, but always treks long dangerous roads, including footpaths, forest routes, crossing wide and wild rivers, to see and talk to villagers not merely in political times but often in ordinary times. Nature crowns the source with feminine generics but the deeds are masculine, audacious, valiant and adventurous. Who’s the source? Many don’t know. They keep mute. But someone yells: “It is Cianneh. It’s Nene. It’s the former Vice Lady of the Republic. It is the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. It’s Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, a celebrated feminist, a scholar, a jurist and banker per excellence.” They are right. What many may not know is she celebrates her 58th Birth Anniversary still in enormous strength, nerve-wracking beauty and unselective humility, attracting tributes and eulogies from far and wide. The Analyst, in this special edition, presents the celebrant as her story is clearly told by her deeds and actions.

Despite public perceptions that are sweepingly muddling just anyone distinguished by their stature in society and government, there are still a couple of “endangered human species” in the country. And had it not been for the fact as alluded to by the Kenyan professor Patrick Lumumba that “good people are vilified while thieves are celebrated”, the likes of Liberia’s current Vice President would be lavishly exalted and placed in the center stage of Liberia’s contemporary transformation programs.

By all account, Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor is a rare public servant, one amongst a million peers, a shining shield and a sheep amongst wolves.

That Jewel Cianneh Nene Howard-Taylor is a coveted trailblazer, a woman of copious experience and knowledge and wisdom is undisputed. She is former First Lady of Liberia, former two-term Senator from Liberia’s third populous county, a recipient of countless prestigious international accolades even before the country’s First Female Vice President.

On the occasion of her 58th Birth Anniversary yesterday, January 17, 2021, His Excellency George Manneh Weah, President of The Republic of Liberia, seized the opportunity to extend heartfelt best wishes and felicitations to H.E. Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia.

 The President beseech the Almighty God to grant his Vice President Wisdom, strength and longevity as “we together work in humble service to our people”.

The outpour of avalanche of greetings, sentiments and tributes as she quietly celebrates her 58th birth anniversary is not unexpected. The fact that greetings and eulogies come from both partisans, supporters and admirers, as well as fierce critics and political foes, is expected.

She touches millions of lives and her deeds revered as standards of countless people, mainly young women, who see her a role model.

For instance, of hundreds of natal day sentiments and messages, were those from not only her personal political adversaries, but also from sworn opponents of her government.

Senator Dr. Henrique Tokpa went on the social media and posted pleasantries, wishing his bitterest political opponent, Madam Taylor his heartfelt greetings.

He stated: “As you mark your years of existence on Earth today, my wife and I join the peace loving people of Bong County and Liberia at large in wishing you a very happy birthday. We wish you peace, good health and happiness. Madam Vice President, it’s also my wish that we continue to join our hands and efforts together, and see our political differences as a commonplace to get the people’s work done.”

Quite stunning is also birthday greetings from the daughter of the former Chairperson of the opposition bloc, Mr. Benoni Urey. Ms Telia Urey stated in a Facebook post: “Happy birthday to Liberia’s Mother and Vice President! You are such an inspiration to young women in Africa, Aunty Jewel. Your strength, dynamism and compassion will continuously lead you to break more glass ceilings. We are proud of you and pray for God’s blessings on your life.”

Heartfelt birthday messages also came from supporters and her party. The National Youth League Chairman of the CDC, Lord Mayor Jefferson Koijee, who is also a very close confidant of President George Manneh Weah, said in an Instagram post: “Happy birthday, Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of Liberia. The entire Revolutionary National Youth League (RNYL) of the Mighty Coalition for Democratic Change hopes and prays that God grants you peace, long life and prosperity. Be blessed now and always as together we all steer the affairs our great country. JTK.”

Brief Natal History

Born on January 17, 1963, she shares birthday with great people in history. Benjamin Franklin. Douglas Hyde. George Spalatin. Pope Pius. This gives her parents the untold prophecy that would be someone extraordinary; that lead feminist revolutions in Africa and around the world; that she would break glass ceilings.

And growing up in Kpelle land with her peasant parents, Jewel did so measuring her aspirations and dreams along those lines—lines that instilled in her the sense of ‘somebodyness’, and more so the sense of humility and charity to all.

The Liberian Vice President is a daughter of Bong County. She was born to the Royal Household of Kerkula Giddings of Sanoyea District. King Giddings, in his tenure, wrote the script to the Kpelle language.

The Vice President was raised as a child on the Phebe Hospital Compound under the watch of her loving parents, Mr. Moses Y. Howard and Mrs. Nora Giddings-Howard, both of whom were enviable professional health workers who died in service to the people of Bong County and are buried at the Phebe Compound.

She was, and is not, afraid to challenge odds even as a young girl playing amongst boys who the culture of her people preferred more than girls.

Though royal blood runs through her veins, she has conducted herself an ordinary person, sharing with the poor and building up the downtrodden.

Nene, as she’s called mostly in Bong County amongst her age mates, got fond relationship with and love for grassroots people, something that is informed by your natural upbringing, not only because she was born to a notable farming family, but also being an offspring of King Kerula Giddings King of Sanoyea.

Her parents, Mr. Moses Y. Howard and Nora Mammie Howard, were successful farmers, tailing a huge farmland despite civic service jobs that got them uprooted from place to place.

Though job assignment took the family from one part of the country to another, the Howards returned to the farm as regularly as possible, and Jewel or Cianeh, she also loves to be called, was an integral part not only of the worthy locomotion but the attachment to the farming community of Bong.

This left her physically and mentally solidified as a progressive leader whether it was at the National Bank of Liberia now Central Bank of Liberia where she served as Deputy Governor, or at the Agriculture and Development Bank (ACDB) which she served as President or the First Union National Bank that she served as Mortgage Financing Underwriter focusing on Health and Social issues. And whether he was the First Lady of Liberia and whether she is the Vice President of Liberia.

Brief Academic History

Whenever she is picked for friendship, or for public service job for social cohesion, it’s not only because of Jewel’s physical preciousness; the world clamber to connect to her because the brain is solid and filled with knowledge and wisdom.

Her parents spent a good chunk of their average wealth to lavish it on Jewel’s education. She went to, and graduated from, the prestigious College of West Africa, where he’s obtained a high school diploma. At the University of Liberia, she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics.

When she graduated from the American Institute of Banking, and with a Masers in Banking and Finance, Cianneh did so with High Honors. Then she came back home, and from her home county of Bong, she earned an additional Masters, this time in Business Administration and Finance. And, of course, she was again a Honors Graduate.

With Honors also, the Celebrant, Liberia’s current Vice President, graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. She imbibed a LLB Degree.

It is also very important to note that Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, having displayed much scholarliness and leader, attracted from prestigious universities Honorary Doctor Degrees like the ones she got from the St. Clements University College in Leadership and Governance

Of course, Jewel is also an Honors Graduate from the prestigious Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia.

The level of education acquired and the wisdom it all imbued into her makes Dr. Jewel H. Taylor a visible and very involved stateswoman. She holds clear vision for affordable but quality education, transparent justice system, improved and accessible health system, women’s economic and political participation, and an accountable public service system.

That has also made her one of Liberia’s foremost advocate for increased and improved opportunities for women of Liberia; thus becoming a critical voice on cross-cutting issues at many frontlines in the battle to reposition Liberia for vibrancy, productivity and democratic good governance.

On account of her national disposition, the Vice President is fondly called the Vice President without boundaries. While she represents Bong County in particular, her voice and views are national in scope.

Brief Decoration History

Vice President Taylor’s fame in and out of Liberia, the fragrance of her humility and her handiwork at private and public endeavors attracted admiration expressed in copious national and international awards.

On the national scene, Cianneh Suakoko Taylor was decorated with the following awards: Women Activist Award, (2016) for her role in gender advocacy and empowerment; The Nation’s highest honor as Knight Great Dame, Order of the Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers in 2005; granted to her by Former President Charles G. Taylor for her service to the Nation as the 21st First Lady of Liberia, and the First Female to be given the Distinguished Traditional Title of   Venerable Chief in the National Traditional Council of Liberia in 2011,  a Chieftaincy title conferred on her by Traditional Chiefs and Elders of Bong County for her role in sponsoring the a bill which created the National Traditional Council of Liberia; and in full recognition of her exemplary Services to the people of Bong, yea Liberia.

The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Presidential Recognition Award for Humanitarian Services and contribution to Youth Development in Liberia from the (AAW Peace) African & American Women went to Jewel in 2011. She was decorated as Senator of the Year, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 from various organizations, including prestigious media and civil society organization.

The Celebrant was given the National Excellence Award for National Service in 2011; and the National Excellence Award for Philanthropy in 2009.

On the international scene, Madam Taylor was recognized and honored with the Pan African Award on Leadership Excellence & Women Empowerment, a Humanitarian Award 2016; Woman of the Year, 2016, West African Philanthropist Organization; Women Activist Award, 2016, West Africa Philanthropy Awards as Woman of the Year, 2016; and the 2nd Chance International Award as a Woman of Distinction 2015, New York City USA.

She also bags the (ECOWAS) ECOFEPA Good Will Ambassador, Abuja, Nigeria; 2015; Women Advancement Forum Award in recognition of her contribution to the Emancipation, Motivation and Advancement of Women of the World; 2014, Gambia; the Outstanding African Women Achievers Award,  as African Mentor and Role Model 2013, from the African Women Leadership Organization(AWLO), in Nigeria,

Other international awards that went to the Liberian erudite vice president are: An African Leadership Award, as Outstanding African Female Leader of the Year 2012 from the African Leadership Award, in Dubai; an Excellence Award in Recognition of her Advocacy for the Rights and Empowerment of women from the African Women in Leadership Organization (AWLO) in 2012, in Nigeria.

Brief Leadership/Organization Membership History

Besides being Liberia’s first female Vice President, as serving a senior high ranking member of the Liberian Senate, the Celebrant, has been playing honorable leadership roles in the country.

At the Senate, she served Chairperson, Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia; Chairperson, Education and Public Administration; Co-Chairperson on Planning & Development Committee; Member of the Joint Legislative Modernization Committee; Member,  Committee on Judiciary; Member, Committee on Autonomous Commissions; Member, Committee on Defense, Intelligence, Security, Veteran Affairs; and   Member, Committee on Internal Affairs, Good Governance & Reconciliation.

She also served as Member, Committee on Gender, Health, Social Welfare, Women & Children’s Affairs.

Vice President Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor Holds Memberships in many Organizations. Some of these include Chair, Board of Trustees, Restoration Baptist Church, Oldest Congo Town; Deaconess, Restoration Baptist Church, Oldest Congo Town; Member, Bong County Bar Association; Member, Bong County Women Association; Vice President, Board of Trustees, University of Liberia; Liberia’s Goodwill Ambassador on HIV/AIDS; Member, Liberian National Red Cross; Member, Liberian Rural Women Association and  Member, YWCA.

She is also Member, Liberia Girls Guide Association and Member, Greater Monrovia Lions Club of Liberia.

Brief History of Audacity

She’s born a feminine gender. She acts masculine. She confronts odds. And she prevails.

She cannot be an ordinary African woman. She’s a celebrated heroine in her own right, leaving behind a trail of near-insurmountable challenges, and triumphing in flying colors.

According to those who are close to the Liberian Vice President, she’s on record for beating all odds, surmounting mountainous challenges and surviving stormy weathers long before reaching the acme of her current public service placement.

For instance, when Jewel first entered the senatorial race in 2005 in Bong County, many pundits dismissed her, not only because they thought she was not a typical grassroots Kpelle woman, but also because she was once married to a former president and former war lord.

Not too many people know that Jewel and Taylor divorced since 2006.

Her detractors propagandized with the messaging that as a wife of the war-crimes convict Charles Taylor, the electorate would reject her. But that did not stop the citizens of Bong County to vote her Senator of the county in 2005.

That victory came not only as a stunning surprise to many pundits but also as the evidence not only of her humble relations with ordinary people even while serving as First Lady.

Bong County is the third populous province in the country. And some of Liberia’s well educated and prominent citizens hail from the county. Despite the fact Jewel went into a political contest with most of the county’s political bigwigs, she was the choice of the electorate.

The electorate’s decision at the time did not come from the vacuum. It was based on the fact that even while war was raging, Jewel maintained a close contact, not merely remaining in regular interaction with ordinary Liberians, but also in sharing with the people directly and indirectly her personage earnings. There are some who say she built that relationship long before the war.

It was not a surprise, therefore, that after her first nine years of service to the people—a period she also used to allow her personal resources to trickle down to the ordinary people of Bong—that she was one of just three of all nine sitting senators to win a second term in 2014. She was the only woman amongst the victorious senators.

Just before that mid-term senatorial election, the investigation and subsequent sentencing of her former husband was regular news on national and international media. Her opponents vainly attempted to tag her to Mr. Taylor in a bid to pollute the minds the Bong electorate from reelecting her to the Senate. That did not work. The Bong electorate could not afford to let down someone who built them up.

What most critics of Vice President Taylor do not know and hardly appreciate is the fact that she knows and appreciates her roots as an ordinary person. She has largely lived her roots, a very humble person who never projected herself an aristocrat, despite her high level of education and high placement in government.

She has never disconnected with the people, but always trekking long dangerous roads, including footpaths, forest routes, crossing wide and wild rivers, to see and talk to villagers not merely in political times but often in ordinary times.

Those tendering birthday greetings cut across the social, economic and political spectrum for that singular reason. She has touched several lives and everyone would want to make her smile as modestly as possible.

Though respectful and quiet, Jewel’s leadership style which slants toward the impoverished masses often gets her into feud with her colleagues who are used to elbowing ordinary people’s interest in the dispensation of the national cake.

As the Senate, for example, she’s on record for fighting her way in committee rooms and in caucus meetings to jerk out the ordinary citizens’ share, pleading with colleagues to allow the felt needs of Liberians take precedence in development discussions.

So, throughout the years, she has been on record for beating all odds, surmounting mountainous challenges and surviving stormy weathers.

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