Heritage (Monrovia)

Liberia: Ellen Discusses Liberian Women's Involvement in Peacemaking

"Women continue to play a major role in the efforts for peace. Women continue to be those peace builders; continue to promote the environment that enables all citizens to search for peace, maintain peace and use the security that peace brings to be able to join in the processes of development that will touch the lives and change the condition of humankind," President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said.

According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from New York, President Sirleaf made the observation when she delivered a keynote address at the International Peace Institute's African Leaders Series, Consolidating a Future in Peace.

Speaking on "Liberian Women's Involvement in Peacemaking and Peace building," President Sirleaf catalogued Liberian women's activities beginning with their concern with relief efforts in 1990, to organizing themselves into a pressure group called the Liberia Women Initiative (LWI) in 1994 in order to help to restore peace in Liberia.

She indicated that the women's advocacy group advanced their initiatives, and their networks transcended national borders, reaching out to Liberians in the Diaspora to keep the issue of peace in Liberia on the agenda of the U.S., Europe and African countries.

"Unsolicited but undeterred, the women continued their crusade to the various Liberian peace conferences, ending in Accra, in 2003, where they were invited to participate, as observers. As a result of their determination, ultimately every decision made by warlords was referred to the women for their views," President Sirleaf recalled. She added that their advocacy continued through the country's transitional period, resulting in her election in 2005.

"Liberia today is enjoying its ninth year of uninterrupted peace, and has now turned its attention, through the women, from peacemaking to peace building, by strengthening mechanisms to ensure that peace continues to prevail not only in Liberia, but in our neighborhood, the Mano River Union Basin; in our region, the sixteen ECOWAS countries; and in our continent, all countries of the African Union," the Liberian leader stated.

President Sirleaf said Liberian women's role has similarly evolved in the area of peace building. This, she said, was facilitated by institutional frameworks such as Mano River Women's Peace Network (MARWOPNET), comprising peace activists from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia; the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP), which has established strong national networks in every ECOWAS Member State - its Liberia partner being the Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET-Liberia); and the Angie Brooks International Centre for Women's Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security (ABIC).

Citing MARWOPNET which was established through the instrumentality of a Geneva-based women's advocacy group, Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), President Sirleaf noted that the organization brought together women from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, at a meeting in Abuja, in 2000. "Once unified, the women were instrumental in opening up dialogue among the leaders of their respective countries," the President said.

As an achievement, in 2003, MARWOPNET was awarded the United Nations Prize for Human Rights by the General Assembly, in recognition of its outstanding achievement in promoting human rights and peace. Today, MARWOPNET's Liberia Chapter is reaching out to the women of la Côte d'Ivoire, in efforts to mediate the conflict there, and engaging in humanitarian work by providing food and shelter to Ivorian refugees.

"Considering the vital role which women have and continue to play, our Government supports several mechanisms and initiatives to empower them and enhance their peacemaking and peace-building efforts," President Sirleaf indicated, highlighting the Angie Brooks Centre, an outcome of the 2009 International Women's Colloquium. Among ABIC's initiatives is the Women Situation Room, which monitored the Liberian elections of 2011, Senegal's elections this year, and is preparing to monitor the November elections in Sierra Leone.

President Sirleaf also said that Liberia is engaged with the UN Peace building Commission and strongly supports all of the efforts made on behalf of women.

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