63rd Armed Forces Day Speech delivered by Hon. Mary T. Broh, Director General of the General Services Agency (GSA), February 11, 2020 Barclay Training Center (BTC) – Monrovia, Liberia
Gender Balancing in the Security Sector of Liberia: Focus on Roles of the Females in the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Your Excellency, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia President, George Manneh Weah and Mrs. Weah; The Honorable Madam Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor;
Mr. Speaker, and Honorable Members of the House of Representatives; Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Members of the Judiciary; Mr. President Pro-Tempore, and Members of the Honorable House of Senate; The Dean and Members of the President’s Cabinet; Excellencies Mr. Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; The Heads and Representatives of International Organizations; The President and Members of the Consular Corps; Heads of Public Corporations, Autonomous Agencies and Commissions; Members of the Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders; Heads and Representatives of the Religious Council of Liberia; Mr. Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Officers and Members of the Military and Para-Military Forces of Liberia; Mr. President of the University of Liberia and Heads of Higher Institutions of Learning; Mr. Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and Heads of Banking Institutions; Heads of Political Parties; Mr. President of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, Business leaders and Members of the Business Community; Heads and Representatives of Civil Society Organizations; Deputy Director General for Administration, General Services Agency; Deputy Director General for Operations, General Services Agency; The GSA Family; Other Invited Guests; Members of the Electronic and Print Media; Our Audience in Radio and Television Land;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let us stand for a moment of Silence for the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia, who sacrificed their lives in defense of our great Nation, The Republic of Liberia.
Gender Balancing in the Security Sector of Liberia: Focus on Roles of the Females in the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Today, we have gathered as a people to celebrate the 63rd edition of the Armed Forces Day of our Country, Liberia. Some people out there will be wondering why we should celebrate when the country is facing serious economic challenges. Despite these challenges, we must always remember and honor the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who have made and continue to make enormous sacrifices to ensure the protection of our territorial integrity and the sovereignty of our beloved Country, Liberia.
In this moment, I thank God for the strength He has given me to serve our country in this capacity. Thanks to H.E. President George Manneh Weah for entrusting me with the custody and management of assets of the Government of Liberia. And many thanks to the men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia for the honor and privilege to stand here today as Orator for the 63rd Armed Forces Day.
Today, I ask you all to consider how we can Incorporated Women into Liberia’s Security Sector. I am convinced that there is value in balancing gender roles and representation in our Armed Forces. Today, I will Focus on the Roles of Women in the Armed Forces of Liberia.
In 1908, when the Liberia Frontier Force (LFF) was established only men were recruited and enlisted. That was still the case when the LFF was renamed the Liberia National Guard. The thought of recruiting and enlisting women was farfetched.
When the Armed Forces of Liberia was established in 1956, women were still barred from being recruited and enlisted. It was only in the early 1960s when the glass ceiling was shattered by Mrs. Etta Wright, who was appointed as Assistant Secretary of War for Militia Affairs at the Department of War now known as Ministry of National Defense.
Finally, in 1977 the first 46 women about the size of a Platoon were recruited and named the Women Auxiliary Corps (WAC). Thereafter, and prior to the 1990 crisis, the WAC went from a platoon to a company comprising 184 women. Only because of the civil war in Liberia did the number decrease over time.
To date, the new AFL 82 women, of whom 75 are enlisted and 7 are commissioned officers. Their ranks range from Private to Brigadier General and three of these women are entrusted as decision makers. They are Brigadier General Geraldine J. George, Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL, the first woman General in the history of the AFL to serve in this position; Major Hawa Kamara, Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications, and Captain Grace Samolu, Executive Officer (XO) of the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG).
Presently, 19 women serve in Peace Keeping Mission in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, at both staff and contingent levels.
Let us look at the History of African Females in the Military
Women have served in the military, in many different roles in various jurisdictions throughout history. In the 17th Century, well-trained women, referred to as Women Warriors of Dahomey, now Republic of Benin, defended their kingdom against invaders and marauders and inspired fear and won battles for more than 200 years.
In 20th-Century Eritrea, women fought alongside males and led soldiers into combat throughout the country’s 30-year struggle for independence. The females healed the wounded in underground hospitals that were sheltered from enemy fire and helped repair equipment for the battlefield.
For so many years, females have played a vital role in African peace and security. They have sacrificed in liberation struggles and offered unique skills in peacekeeping operations. But their contributions have come at a cost. Despite making strides toward representation across the continent’s militaries, females continue to fight harassment and discrimination at all levels of service. Also, when conflicts subside, military women often receive less awards and other recognition than their male counterparts.
However, preconceptions about women’s roles and abilities have not prevented women from ascending to the highest ranks of their countries militaries. We have Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, of South Africa, the continent’s longest serving woman Defense Minister since 2012; Raychelle Omamo Kenya’s defense minister since 2013, and Marie-Noelle Koyara of the Central African Republic who has led her country’s armed forces for nearly two years.
Aisha Mohammed Mussa became Ethiopia’s Defense Minister in 2018, and Rose Christiane Raponda, of Gabon became the continent’s newest female Defense Minister in February 2019.
Finally on our African sisters, we have Air Commodore Ellen Chiweshe of Zimbabwe, who became the southern African country’s first female air commodore, the number three post in the Zimbabwean Air Force.
Now back home to Liberia. As we focus on the roles of women and look at the statistics, we need to step up representation of women in the AFL. Some still believe that women are the weaker sex, but when we think upon what women endure, from childbirth to motherhood and the ravages of war, we have seen in our lifetime that women are just as capable and strong in spirit and body as men. Remember, the hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world.
Therefore, we must create an environment that will retain women and improve their opportunities for leadership in the military and beyond. We should strive to incorporate more women into peacekeeping missions. When we consider the number of years women have been a part of the AFL as Women Auxiliary Corps, we can do much better.
Let us look at the performance of our top women officers in the Military, Brigadier General, Geraldine George has made history as the first woman to make the rank of General in the AFL, and the first to serve as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL. She was commissioned in 2006 as second Lieutenant, and worked hard to climb the ranks and attended all of the staff colleges. Today, Brigadier General George stands tall among the senior officers of the AFL. And as I have heard, she is a “hard nut to crack”. I can definitely relate, and I salute her outstanding accomplishments!
We recognize Major Hawa Kamara, Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications. Major Kamara was commissioned in 2008 as second Lieutenant, and worked hard to achieve her rank, attended the staff colleges and serve admirably today.
We also commend Captain Grace Samolu, Executive Officer (XO) of the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG). Her hard work and dedication allowed to achieve the rank of Captain, just like my daughter did, and today Captain Grace is counted among the senior officers of the Liberian military.
The women in strategic positions in the peacekeeping missions in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan are serving as Military Observers, Battle Watch Captains and Logistics Operations Specialist. I believe their selection for these important and often dangerous missions was based on their high performance in the AFL.
Ladies and gentlemen, all of these women went through the training just like every man they serve beside today. The training and the rigor did not deter these valiant women, rather they endured and succeeded. This tells us that indeed women are capable of not only serving in the military, but leading the Military.
Some of our African brothers remain beholden to tradition, and may see the ascendency of women in the military as taboo.
We are now in the 21st Century, and women are thriving in almost every role imaginable. We see women serving in combat as Pilots in the military and commercial sector, plumbers, masons, and carpenters, mechanics, and astronauts. Moreover, Liberia set the pace in 2005, when she elected the First woman President in Liberia and in all of Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who proudly led our nation for twelve years. And this historic event took shape when our Nation was emerging from the ashes of war and the entire society broken and wounded. Doesn’t this remind us that women can be transformative as leaders? And that women are more than capable and deserving of full representation in leadership roles throughout the Military?
Hon. Minister of Defense, Major General Daniel D. Ziankahn, Jr. (Rtd), Chief of Staff, of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Major General Prince Charles Johnson, III, we applaud you for a job well done with the Military of this Nation. We commend your efforts to ensure women are not subjected to sexual harassment, sexual abuse, bullying of females and marginalization of females in the AFL. We implore you to do everything within your power to increase the number of women in leadership roles at both the officer and non-commissioned levels.
I remember some time ago in both high school and college we had the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) Program. This important program prepared students for the Military. We should revisit that program and ensure more women are encouraged to join this program in preparation for life and leadership in the military.
Your Excellency, President George Manneh Weah, today I ask you to join your voice with mine to call on all women of Liberia to volunteer their services to every sector of our nation. Let us not restrict our service to our families or to our jobs, but render our services to our communities, to the hospitals, to schools, and other areas around us in need of our support. This call is not only for the women in the military but to all women in this great nation.
Women, remember, we are the ones who rock the cradle and we are the necks that turn the head. Now is the time for us to ensure without fear or foe, that we mend our broken society, and make our nation a better place for our children. PLEASE WOMEN LET US DO SOMETHING!!!
Today, I too am a proud mother of a U.S. Air Force Veteran Officer. My daughter, Onike Charles achieved the rank of Captain in the U.S. Air Force and did 2 tours in Iraq. I know what it feels like to send a child off to war, to face the possibility that my child would not return home alive. However, God has blessed us and she has gone on to continue her service to her country as a government servant. This is my hope for all women who serve in the AFL today.
Fellow Liberians, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen here under my voice and in the diaspora, today, we can boast of a military that has educated, intelligent and well-disciplined men and women. We too as civilians have the responsibility to ensure respect for the gallant men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Gone are the days when they were referred to as “NOCO”, gone are the days when they were referred to as uneducated. Let us be reminded that they are the ones who risked their lives to ensure the nation and its people are protected. They deserve to be respected!
My fellow Liberians, I urge you to consider the role and responsibility for providing our Liberian children the kind of environment that will allow them to thrive and succeed. They should have quality education, they should be protected and no child should be left behind. This role just doesn’t fall on us women alone but men as well. These are the children when given equal opportunity will make up the Armed Forces of Liberia of the future.
May God bless Liberia and shine His grace upon her.
I thank you!
Bio of Mary T. Broh
Madam Mary T. Broh, a native of Liberia, West Africa, returned home in 2005 after Thirty-Three years in the diaspora to give back to her country and help empower the youth to volunteer and be patriotic.
In 2006, Madam Broh was appointed by Her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to serve as coordinator of the Special Project of the Ministry of State.
Shortly after the completion of this project Madam Broh was appointed by the President and confirmed by the Legislature as Director of Passport of the Republic of Liberia.
In 2008, because of her ability to transform institutions, Madam Broh was re-assigned by the President as Deputy Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA).
In February 2009, Madam Broh was selected by the President to serve as Acting Mayor of the City of Monrovia. At the Monrovia City Corporation, Madam Broh instituted clean-up measures that included city-wide litter reduction campaigns aimed to increase public awareness of litter, sanitation and overall public health. Her leadership was very successful in the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Programs.
On February 28, 2013, Madam Broh resigned from her post as Acting Mayor of the Monrovia City Corporation. In accepting her resignation, President Sirleaf said, “we will all miss the dynamism, commitment and integrity of Mary Broh who worked tirelessly and passionately to transform the City of Monrovia”.
In March 2013, Madam Broh was appointed by Her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed to serve in the capacity of Project Manager within the Program Implementation Unit (PIU) for the Omega Village Project. Within the same year in July, Madam Broh was again called upon by the President to served as Chairperson of the Investigative team at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. After the investigation, Madam Broh was charged with re-structuring the entire application procedure in terms of irregularities in the processing system.
In 2014, Madam Broh was appointed Head of General Services Agency charged with the responsibility to manage and implement the Fleet Management Policy of the GSA, restructure the Bureau of Quality Control, Standards and Regional Services, maintain Public Buildings, manage and control Government of Liberia assets along with local authorities.
In November 2015, while serving as Director General of the General Services Agency, Madam Broh was again called upon by the President to head the Presidential Task Force for the Beautification of Monrovia and its environs.
In January 2018, after the inauguaration of H. E. President George Manneh Weah Madam Broh was again appointed to continue her service as the Director General of the General Services Agency, Republic of Liberia. This ladies and gentlemen is due to her hardwork and commitment to duties assigned her.
Ladies and gentlemen, Madam Broh has achieved success and admiration by friends and foes in every capacity she has served; and because of her leadership style, she has been branded “the clean-up lady, correction fluid, and General Broh”.