Monrovia July 24, 2019: Over hundred women representatives from various organizations within Montserrado county that attended a high level meeting have been inspired to embark on affirmative actions for gender responsive county and social development fund.
Mainstreaming Gender in Economic Governance with intent to set up women coalition with capacity support to engender the county and social development funds is a project funded by UNDEF and implemented by the Liberia Women Media Acton Committee in league with other partners inclusive of the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP).
Based on the theme “Building blocks for Gender Compliant CSDF in Liberia” the event held on Friday July 19, 2019 at the YMCA In Monrovia, succeeded in bringing together stakeholders including representatives from the Ministry of Gender; UN Women; Women In Peacebuilding Network, the Women NGO secretariat among others.
The Officer in charge of LlWOMAC Vanetta Johnson Freeman delivered a welcome address that revealed that the project has a two years life span. She said roles are defined under the joint partnership that LIWOMAC leads and CEMESP has the obligation to convene series of high level forums for women groups. She said these women groups are expected to form coalitions at the level of four targeted counties namely Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa and Bomi. Madam Freeman referred to the Monrovia high level meeting as a milestone accomplishment, noting that the project was designed to bridge Gender Gaps evident in the administration of County and Social Development funds.
She stressed that empowerment will lead to strengthening these women in advocacy skills, alluding to the formation of coalition of women groups for the same goal and with an online portal created for their stories and updates to be uploaded to enhance the advocacy.
The President Female Journalist Association of Liberia Siatta Scott Johnson who moderated the panel discussion posed a question as to whether any of the hundred plus women in the hall had ever been involved with County Social Development Fund meetings. All of the women in the YMCA Hall denied ever attending project management on County Social Development Funds. This feedback was a validation of the project need.
As first discussant of the panel discussion the Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia Daniel Nyakonah retraced the 100 years gap for women of Liberia to be granted voting right as part of the problem reflected in low representation of women. He made the distinction between county and social development fund; indicating that the latter being concession companies with corporate social responsibility and annual budgetary allotment dished out by the central government to each county at flat rate. He argued that composition of project management teams that take decisions on these funds have not been inclusive of women. Such a situation means that women issues are hardly going to be factored. On the basis of this fact, he encouraged the women to be serious about the UNDEF initiative and ensure that in the next allotment women have voices to change things for the better.
For the head of the Women NGO Secretariat Madam Mapu Speare, the UNDEF project has created another space for women to participate. For her, mainstreaming gender is about access and management of resources. She noted the fact that Liberia is richly endowed but how these God given resources have been used to the exclusion of women is part of the problem to be resolved. She posed the question about how many women who enjoy the confidence of the husband to disclose their earnings? Again very few women in the hall responded in the affirmative. She said it is not the intention of women to challenge but to ensure equal opportunity, with women enjoying what men are enjoying. She deplored the existing arrangement of concession agreements that is a male preserved affair. According to her women do not have access to basic social amenities in most of the concession areas. Madam Mapu Speare therefore appealed to women to have sensitivity to gender language, by being nosy and looking for what is in programs for men and women. She concluded on an inspirational note saying it is time for action after a long talking about gender parity.
Statements were earlier delivered by key stakeholders. Assistant Minster for Gender Research and Planning said they are concerned by issues that affect women based on their official mandate. He spoke about disproportionate gender budgeting, utility and allotment that disadvantage women as an unhelpful practice to be tackled. He implored women to collaborate in advocacy, noting that the government of President Weah is committed to supporting a lofty course.
The issue of low representation of women in government was a main thrust of the remark delivered by WIPNET’s Coordinator, Delphine Morris. She dilated on salient points ranging from all inclusive gender mainstreaming, gender equality, gender roles and responsibility gender budgeting, monitoring and evaluation.
UN Women Program Manager Ramon G Garway said they are working with the government Liberia , CSOs and grassroot structures on economic governance issues. He disclosed that a lot of work has been done on gender responsive planning with tremendous achievement in for instance land rights for women and domestic violence instrument-all leading to one goal-empowerment of all. He reassured that UN women will remain engaged with stakeholders to resolve critical gaps that fraught the efforts in gender mainstreaming. He noted that this is especially going to be factored in the alignment of their intervention with the pro poor agenda of government.
Women groups were given the opportunity to pose a range of questions and make comment. Some salient questions captured include: How often the county sitting is convened? What mechanism has been put in place to ensure effective representation of women in county meetings? How can young people benefit from County and Social Development Funds.
These questions were answered with one dominant message that the coalition arrangement underway must be embraced by all women in various counties to make a difference.