By: Matalay Kollie and Laymah Kollie
GBARNGA, December 1, 2023-: Women Zoes and former actors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM ) in Liberia on Friday December 1,2023 gathered in Gbarnga to showcase trades and skills they have learned through the UN Spotlight Initiative as a means of survival after the turn over of their traditional tools. At the Trade Fair held at the Gbarnga Administration Building, Women Zoes unveiled Agricultural products, Tie-dyed clothes, traditional Women’s Handbags, Men shoes, Wallets, Belts, locally made Clora, and Liquid Soap amongst others.
The initiative which is meant to create a livelihood for Women Zoes to cater and fend for their families is being implemented by Helping Our People Excel (HOPE) LIBERIA, Traditional Community Initiative, Universal Impactment Mission and Women Empowerment for Self Employment with funding support from the European Union and United Nations Women Spotlight Initiative. The project targeted counties are: Montserrado, Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Rivercess, Grand Kru, Bomi, Margibi and Grand Bassa Counties.
The activity celebrated in remembrance of 16 days of Activism is aimed at providing women with alternative livelihood programs to encourage and support them to disengage from the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Bush Schools across Liberia. The theme for the occasion is “Investing Locally to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls.”
Giving a brief overview of the Traditional Women Farmers’ Alternative Livelihood Programs and Trade Fair, the Acting Executive Director of “HOPE LIBERIA, Madam Alfreda Nmah emphasized that the initiative is intended to empower women to secure their livelihoods following their decision to disengage from the practices of FGM in the country.
According to Madam Nmah, the project is also intended to protect women against all forms of Gender-Based violence and to support them in the production of locally made traditional materials.
“This activity under the UN Spotlight Initiative intended to equip our traditional women with skills that they can be able to provide for themselves and their family. It will also help them to get their minds away from the past (FGM) and empower them as well”. Madam Nmah said.
At the same time, the Regional Agriculture Coordinator for Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties, Moses R. Gbanyah in a remark pledged the Ministry of Agriculture Regional Offices’ commitment to working with the traditional women in supporting the agricultural component of the initiative.
Mr Gbanyah further encouraged traditional women, particularly in Bong County to engage in lowland farming to fast-track the production of agricultural commodities.
“We need to empower our people and that’s where we are going. We you find gaps, we gonna help you to fix the technical aspects. We are going to support you”.
Also speaking on behalf of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia, (NACCEL), J. Mark Brown, Secretary General for Chiefs Affairs at the Traditional Council on behalf of Chief Zanzan Karwor lauded the European Union and United Nations Women for partnering with HOPE Liberia to support the Women-driven initiative.
He further described the initiative as a gateway to self-sustainability for traditional women in Liberia.
“ We want to say thank you to European Union, the UN, HOPE and all the other people making effort to help our mothers. This knowledge they are getting will help put food on their table and even help them pay children school fees”
Also, speaking in a joyful tone, the head Zoe for the Muslim Traditional Women of Montserrado County, Madam Majula B. Daramy expressed gratitude for the partnering organizations’ support to traditional Women in Liberia.
The Montserrado County Muslim Women Chief Zoe on behalf of her women group in Montserrado commended HOPE and the European Union and UN Women for supporting them in adding value to their lives. She then committed the traditional Female Muslims to live up to their decision to end FGM practices in Liberia.
“We are so happy, we like the work that we do as traditional women. We tell UN thank you, and all the other people supporting us we say thank you”
Meanwhile, representatives from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and Civil Society Organizations in Bong, appreciated HOPE and its partners for taking the bold step of providing a learning space for women to be providers in their homes.
HOPE-Liberia and partners are human rights organizations operating in Liberia.