ActionAid Liberia, Partners End Day-long Cultural Festival in Commemoration of IWD

By Matalay Kollie, Bong County Correspondent

GBARNGA: March 9, 2024 – ActionAid Liberia, in collaboration with the United Nations Women and the Swedish Government, concluded a day-long Cultural Festival on Friday, March 7, 2024, in commemoration of International Women’s Day in Gbarnga, Bong County.

The event is part of the Just and Equal Communities project funded by SIDA through the Embassy of Sweden in Liberia, which operates in four counties: Bong, Montserrado, Gbarpolu, and Grand Gedeh. The event showcased vibrant cultural performances by traditional dancers from the four project counties under the theme “Promoting Positive Cultural Values and Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The occasion brought together traditional women, students, and leaders; over 3000 people attended this event at the Gbarnga County Field.

ActionAid Liberia County Director, Madam Elizabeth Dato Gbah-Johnson, in her remarks, noted the festival aimed to champion positive cultural values and raise awareness about eradicating harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Liberia. Madam Gbah-Johnson emphasized the importance of eliminating detrimental practices like FGM and early child marriage; she said they have adverse health effects on the lives of women and girls.

The festival also focused on implementing livelihood sustainability programs for traditional women transitioning away from harmful cultural practices. The first component featured Palava Hut dialogues, concentrating on community and local government structures to bolster awareness, legal frameworks, and advocacy against FGM. The second component engaged community voices, offering perspectives on FGM and insights from practitioners and survivors.

During the dialogue session, traditional leaders highlighted significant community challenges and appealed to international partners for solutions.

Keynote speaker Madam Nyamah Kollie urged UN Women and the Swedish government to establish “Heritage Centers” in all clans across the eleven FGM-practicing counties to support practitioners transitioning away from the practice.

Bong County Jorquelleh District #3 Commissioner, Madam Mary Larteh, advocated for robust support for the Village Saving Loan Segment of Livelihood Sustainability in every clan of the eleven counties, believing it would encourage the disengagement of traditional female zoes involved in harmful practices.

Similarly, Zota District Paramount Chief, Madam Lorpu Kollie, suggested that the Traditional Council of Liberia and international partners directly provide Livelihood Sustainability support to local chiefs, elders, and female zoes in their districts.

In response, representatives from the Ministry of Gender, UN Women, and the Swedish government pledged unwavering support, committing to providing necessary materials for traditional female zoes as they disengage from FGM practices in Liberia.

The event concluded with awards and certificates presented to the winners of the cultural
performances. Gbarpolu County secured the first award, followed by Bong County.
Montserrado claimed third place, and Grand Gedeh County secured fourth place.

It’s noteworthy that the Gender-Based Violence Act was signed on September 11, 2018, by former President George M. Weah. This law prohibits all forms of gender-based violence. However, the component that condemns FGM was removed from the GBV Act before it was passed into law. Women called for the exclusive FGM Bill to be approved. The FGM Bill was developed in 2017 and is still pending approval from the Government of Liberia.

ActionAid Liberia (AAL) is a human rights and social justice organization operating in Liberia since 1997. It aims to advance the rights of women, children, young people, excluded and marginalized communities, and shift the development paradigm to one that is people-centered, utilizing a human rights-based approach (HRBA) and an intersectional feminist analysis across all programs, campaigns, policy, advocacy, and partnership.

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