As Liberia joins other free nations around the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021, massive awareness about the rights of women and about gender equality has been taking place around the country. Joining the campaign for gender empowerment during the day was United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy Ambassador.
Making remarks at ceremonies marking the celebration of the women’s day, Amb McCarthy called on stakeholders and duty bearers recommit themselves to “doing all we can to give Liberian women and girls equal access to the rights and privileges enjoyed by men and boys; to unlock doors to opportunities that have been shut to them for so long; and to draw on their immense abilities and resources so that they are active players in Liberia’s journey to self-reliance.”
“And rest assured that as we work together to do so, you can count on the continued support of the United States,” he said, and added: “We’ve been here, we are still here, working together.”
He accentuated the importance of education for women and girls, calling it “powerful game-changer”
The US Ambassador said education is an indispensable tool for women and girls’ social, economic, and political empowerment.
“It is key to ending the scourge of inter-generational poverty,” noting that “this is why the United States’ development assistance to Liberia attaches special importance to educating women and girls.”
He said the US’ current emphasis is on increasing access to education for out-of-school children and adolescent girls between the ages of 8-15, providing them safe learning environments where they can acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills and ultimately transition to formal schooling.
The Ambassador acknowledged that the world has come a long way since the first International Women’s Day was celebrated exactly 120 years ago today.
“Over those 120 years, the annual celebration of this day has served to remind us of certain undeniable truths: Respect for women’s rights should not and does not come at the expense of men’s rights; everyone, including men and boys, have a role to play in the fight for gender equality; and achieving gender balance means more than simply expressing ideals about equal treatment of people under the law; it is also about how communities, societies and countries can prosper and benefit by fully tapping the energy, talents, and abilities of all their people – women, girls, boys, and men.”
He continued: “We celebrate those who embody this fight for gender equality. That includes the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage awards being hosted by Secretary Antony Blinken this afternoon. It also includes our own Embassy Women of Courage being recognized on our Facebook page, including Minister Saydee-Tarr for her outspokenness and commitment to ending sexual and gender-based violence.”
Ambassador McCarthy stressed that women and girls deserve special attention in designing and implementing policies to counter the broad social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that this is what the US has tried to do in designing United States assistance to Liberia’s COVID-19 response.
“Our cash transfers program, for example, specifically targets market women, farmers, and other vulnerable groups, providing them monthly payments of $50 for three months – money they can use to invest in their small business, pay school fees, or meet other needs. And then there is our school feeding program that ensures their children are fed hot meals when they attend school,” said the Ambassador. “But the fact that women are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the need to do more – the need to knock down the entrenched barriers to progress for women empowerment; to uproot the structural impediments to gender parity that make women and girls so vulnerable to shocks like the pandemic.”
He acknowledged that there is perhaps no greater impediment to achieving gender equality than the deeply rooted cultural norms and practices that favor the education of men and boys over the education of girls and women.
He opined further: “The facts and figures tell us what we stand to gain when we give women and girls equal access to education: A child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to reach his or her fifth birthday. Women with some education enjoy increased agricultural productivity and income than their uneducated counterparts, and they are less likely to be victims of sexual and gender-based violence.”