Rural Women Exemplify Good Governance and Self-Empowerment -Extol P4DP for Support

MONROVIA: While insinuations against beneficiaries of assistance from donor institutions seem to be rife that they do not build on what they receive but continue to perpetually ask for hand-outs, some rural women in Liberia have proven such assertion wrong as they have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt by promoting good governance and self-empowerment just as they extolled a national Nongovernment Organization (NGO), the Platform for Dialogue and Peace, for its support towards their project.

P4DP recently implemented a Women Peace and Humanitarian Funded project that focused on improving the socio-economic conditions and political participation of marginalized women in Montserrado, Bomi and Margibi Counties.

Speaking to newsmen recently at her office, the project Manager of P4DP, Deimah McCronsey said the project, Platform for Women Empowerment and Next Level or PLAWOENEL, provided trainings, economic empowerment (small grants), and coaching, in order to increase women and young women participation and representation in decision making processes and create a pathway for women and girls to move to the ‘Next level (NL)’ socially, economically and politically.

She also noted that progress made by women who benefited from the Socio-economic component of the project shows that there has been relative change in attitude and behaviour coupled with the fact that the beneficiaries did not only receive small grant but they were also trained by knowledgeable experts with vast knowledge in Village savings and microfinance Business management in order to equip them with the necessary skills to manage the grant.

Like other communities, beneficiaries of the project in Bomi County recently gathered to disburse proceeds from the economic grants provided by P4DP to members of the Peace Mother Cubs. The  women said after backing up with what they were trained to do as a way to empower themselves, they were excited that they were meeting to disburse the funds which were kept and managed by a team of committed and visionary leaders. The leader of the group, Sarah Karnlay, said they received a grant of $60,000 Liberian Dollars from P4DP last year through PLAWOENEL as a group of 15 ladies and they organized themselves and immediately started working towards achieving their goals and they eventually had a turnover of $130,995.000. She said being a member of the local Peace Mother Club enables members to not only understand the importance of fighting GBV and forging political solidarity in supporting women political candidates but it also creates the opportunity for active members to receive interest free loan to engage in quick impact businesses or expand existing businesses. These women are then able to save some profits gained from their businesses and are able to receive a good package from their savings at the end of the year. “We are happy that P4DP was able to empower us from mat to mattress”.

Outcome of the project indicates that women who are involved in the socio-economic component are now contributing to their household by reducing GBV and other forms of marginalization which they earlier endured due to the lack of financial powers. Senje District PMC leader notes: “this project is really helping our women to depend on themselves through small businesses than looking up to friends or their husbands for support. This has put our membership from 15 to 36.”  Women of the Peace Mother club preached the message of transparency and try to fight corruption and their methods of saving are not only transparent but worth emulating at the county and by extension the national levels. The innovative blacksmith iron saving box takes into consideration security and epitomizes rural women commitment to accountability and transparency. Three different women from different villages maintain the key to each of the pad locks. The group agreed that at no point can three of the women keeping the different keys be together, except during the agreed dates and times for PMC stakeholders’ meetings.

In addition to exemplifying transparency and trustworthiness, overall, these interventions helped to improve participants’ knowledge and skills in advocacy against the negative socio-cultural norms and practices that create barriers for women’s advancement. They also contributed to enhanced women’s knowledge in political participation and representation in decision making as well as strengthened women capacity in terms of economic livelihoods.

Madam Kou Dorkango, Head of the Todee Peace Mother’s Club applauded P4DP for the effort made in putting the women together to do something positive. “We live in a farming community while at the same time we are into small businesses. Today, we have a joint farm called the Peace Mother Club farm that is separate from our individual farms”. The PMCs are innovative local groups that nurture women’s solidarity and foster women’s efforts in small-scale community-based empowerment initiatives. “As I stand here today, I am happy that everything we learned did not go into vain. We were serious not to make the donors ashamed and today from the amount of $60,000LD we received, we are happy that we are disbursing this amount of $168,000 LD”.

For the Margibi Peace Mother Club, Madam Rose Teah and Madam Mennue Gorpu, heads of Kakata and Weala Peace Mother Clubs were overwhelmed with what they have achieved through the WPHF funded project. According to them, it is a steppingstone for women to do better and greater things in the economic sector and advocacy for their involvement in the decision-making process. The St. Paul bridge branch of Montserrado, which also received the same amount was able to save and generate the total of $225,000 Liberian Dollars within the period of one year. 15 women have been added to the previous 15 women making them a group of 30 women. As their turnover increases, the women adopted new measure by agreeing to only use their saving box for a month and eventually establish an account at the bank where they periodically deposit their savings and display their bank statements at their usual meetings.

We want to thank our sponsors for the supporting us, especially Mr. Shilue and his team at P4DP for such a wonderful assistance. During the just ended parliamentarian and presidential elections, it can be recalled that P4DP’s Executive Director, James S. Shilue, said that 20 of the female political aspirants associated with their work made it to the candidacy stage during the 2023 general elections but unfortunately, they did not win their respective seats. However, he noted that assessments are being carried out to inform their strategy, which will ensure that women are more prepared for the 2029 general elections.

“When one female succeeds in getting to parliament, it inspires more women”.  Director Shilue further emphasized that “to make our society better, we need to support and promote more women political candidates to minimize corruption, allocate more money to our hospitals for safe birth, ensure that the schools get more money for the girl’s child learning.” Indeed, several studies from around the world have shown that as women gain more and more representation in political office, the aspirations of other women grow, and individuals positively update their beliefs about women’s capacity for political success.

To help women aspirants build their confidence, different trainings and workshops were organized. Serving as motivational speaker last year at one of the training sessions in Sinkor, a prominent female politician admonished female aspirants to not give up but to be strong because the political landscape is laterally a man’s world. “Succeeding among the men in Liberia requires commitment and sustained fight which I succeeded doing when I got to the top of Movement for One Liberia, a grassroots political party. You, female political aspirants will need to be strong, and I know you can make it”, said MacDella Cooper. Also, praising the efforts of P4DP, Gbarpolu County Senator, Madam Boto Kanneh said “The way the organisation brought us together under this project to share our experience with you and to mentor you women is good. So, I will give my fullest support to women politicians to be successful during the coming 2023 elections,”

Considering that entrenched social and patriarchy norms continue to serve as barrier for gender equality and female political participation, the project also included several influential male leaders, including religious, traditional, community and political gatekeepers. Tailored trainings were conducted at the district level for these stakeholders helping them understand and advocate women’s rights.

A lady who recently benefited from the training on political participation of women, Madam Estella Kallon narrated her story: “I was in Monrovia and someone told me that there is an election coming up in the county and they asked me if I wanted to consider contesting for the District Chairperson. But I rejected that position and contested to be the County Chairperson for the entire Bomi County without limiting myself to a position for the district. Even though my male opponent was positive that he would have won me because of the crowd behind him, at the end, I beat him with numbers. When I won the election and they took me to Monrovia, the people there said yes, we admired you. Women need to put themselves in things. “Do not allow the men to suppress us”.

Testimonies from other women who also benefitted from the training on Women’s Political Participation narrated the impact the training had on their process when vying for the candidacy position during the 2023 general elections.  Madam Dorothy Barcolleh, Representative Candidate, Margibi County, District #3 Narrated: “The training received was very impactful because it helped me with the election process in terms of documentation needed. The NEC Gender Director presentation helped with everything we needed in going through the election process with an opened mind. Madam MacDella Cooper’s presentation on the Constitution of Liberia was also wonderful in helping us read and understand the constitution better. It was an eye opener and we would not have been more prepared if we had not received the training.”

Speaking also was Madam Snorti Sherman, Representative Candidate, District 12, Montserrado County; “The training prepared us psychologically for the task ahead. We were able to have an insight of what the election entails and how to move ahead with the process. Election is about winning but, it is also about learning; it is a process and not an event”.

Madam Patricia A. Aroniyo, Representative Candidate, District #3, Bomi County through an interview held via mobile phone, explained: “The training was impactful in building my self-esteem especially when it comes to public speaking and community engagement. I did not have any knowledge on campaign management and campaigning, but the training was useful in providing those skills. I now believe that female can do things that they desire to do and can reach their goals by working and pushing harder.”

P4DP will this year join the global celebration of the International Women’s Day under the global theme: “Inspire Inclusion”. For this year’s celebration, P4DP will celebrate the efforts of both rural and urban women in steps taken to unveil the courage of women who have made immense strive in the economic and political sectors of Liberia. To do this, P4DP will celebrate with structured groups, including the Peace Mothers Clubs established within Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh Counties and also with women politicians who benefited from trainings conducted under different projects including the just ended PLAWOENEL Project and the on-going UNDP Project.

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