Though the entire world was once embroiled in gender inequality and particularly violence and injustice against women and girls—a practice justified on religion and culture—most of the world community has since moved fast in unshackling women and girls from those difficult times. Most of Africa, including Liberia, is still lagging behind in ensuring that men and women have equal rights to the goodies of life, mainly political, economic and social rights. Despite some progress in addressing gender gaps in Liberia, there still loom myriad practices and mores that limit women’s chances and rights to be coequal partners to men. And feminists have not been in short supply not only to point out inequalities along gender lines but also provide useful option and support seeking equality. One country well known for its crusade for gender equality and women empowerment is Sweden. At a program in Monrovia recently, its ambassador to Liberia trumpeted the country’s passion and support to feminist struggles. Serving as a keynote speaker at local school, Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvest spoke of Sweden’s “Foreign Agenda Policy,” as The Analyst reports.
The Ambassador of Sweden, Her Excellency Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvest has stressed the importance for both men and women or girls and boys to have access to Rights, Representation, and Resources.
According to Ambassador Wettergvest multiple studies show that countries with higher levels of gender parity fare better on almost all accounts of life, including lifespan, child- and maternal mortality, literacy, health, general well-being and economic development.
“Sweden has always been a strong advocate for equal rights, protection and opportunities for all regardless of gender,” she said, noting that this is why her government has initiated a Feminist Foreign Policy about five years ago.
“The Feminist Foreign Policy is about using your gender glasses,” she said and indicated that she looks for what she refers to as the three Rs that matter for girls and boys, men and women: “Rights, Representation, and Resources.”
She stressed that gender-based policies are only right and appropriate but also effective, adding that improved conditions for women do not take away from the fortunes of men.
Quoting an award-winning actress Helen Mirren, the Swedish Ambassador said: “In every country and culture that I have visited, from Sweden to Uganda, Singapore to Mali, it is very clear that when women are given respect, and the ability and freedom to pursue their personal dreams and ambitions, life improves for EVERYONE.”
Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvest further quoted Mirren: “Feminism is not only for women. The primary requirement for being a feminist is a belief in the principle that we are all born equal in value and dignity. If you believe in and is ready to work toward that goal—whether you are a man or a woman—you can be a feminist.”
The Ambassador made the remarks when she spoke at the Mother Tegeste Stewart Apostolic Pentecostal School (MTSS) of New Water in the Desert Assembly in Brewerville, Montserrado County during its 13th 12th Grade Commencement and the 24th Closing Exercises on July 29, 2019, with 43 students graduated. They were all successful in the West Africa Examinations.
“This is a special day for each and every one of you,” she told the graduates. “You have individually battled against many odds: personal, family related or from other quarters. And you persisted. You stood firm and made it through. That is the spirit of MTSS. That is the force that motivated Ebola survivor Rachael Gbeyan through days and nights on the brink to valedictorian of the MTSS class of 2017.”
She continued: “While today is a major milestone, you will all be aware that it is only a stop on a longer journey. Your next challenge must be College, Technical and Vocational Education Training, or any other higher education institution. Life is about constant learning, constant development of yourself or others.”
In a graduation that featured an Ebola survivor Rachael Gbeyan as the valedictorian of the Mother Tegeste Stewart School (MTSS) class of 2019, Ambassador Wetterqvist called on the graduating class of 43 students to work for the needed change during their life-time.
She named the following conditions that about one child in five does never enroll in school: “Less than half of all children, who enroll in primary school, complete their education and that the figures are even worse for girls; that girls also face other challenges: sexual and gender-based violence, early pregnancy and early marriage; that in fact, 35% of the Liberian girls experience teenage pregnancies; in Maryland the number is even higher: 65%, that four in ten women are married before their 18th birthday and that most children with disabilities do not attend school at all.”
She admonished the graduates that they needed to enter adult life with the competence and capacity that their schooling has given them to contribute to society.
Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist said in Liberia of tomorrow, all children should be able to attend school, which she said is not though a an unreasonable ambition but one that will not happen if they do not take part in realizing it.
To the class of Class of 2019, Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist indicated that the graduates owe it to their parents, their friends, their teachers, and indeed themselves to build a strong and prosperous Liberia for all.
She said: “There is an African saying that goes: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. For many of you, it has taken a village, a community, a church, an extended family or some other group to get you here today. You have most likely have benefited from the collective efforts of your community indirectly in one way or another.”
According to her, some of the members of that support structure are here today, naming parents, teachers and friends.
To the parents, teachers and friends, she said: “Thank you so much for all the sacrifice you have made and the support you have given. What do the parents, teachers and friends expect for the investment they have made in you? As a parent myself—and I believe I speak for many here—our wish is for you to buckle up and take on the next stage of this journey.”
She implored the graduates to remain a responsible and active member of their communities, asking them to go out and be good Ambassadors of their school and of the country, Liberia.