The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: AFELL, Fun to Implement WiLDAF in Liberia

As Liberia joins in the celebration of the International Day of Girl Child, the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) has partnered with Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) West Africa in launching the West African Women and Farmers against poverty, an initiative which is a sub-regional project.

The project is jointly initiated by WiLDAF-West Africa and ROPPA with the financial support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was through WiLDAF's advocacy that the Girl Child was adopted as one of the critical areas of concern in Beijing Platform for Action.

The implementing countries already identified are Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia and Togo. In Liberia, the project will be implemented by AFELL in collaboration with Farmers Union Network (FUN).

The choice of Liberia for the second phase is significant according to the sub regional Coordinator of WiDAF, Beatrice Ajavon said describing the organization as a network for the promotion of women's rights.

"We think it fit to support the efforts of the first Female President of Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of the Republic of Liberia and her government in promoting women's rights and by empowering them," she said.

Madam Ajavon said the difficult socio-economic and political context of Africa in which male leadership has been tested for most of the past centuries without much success; Liberia presents a beacon of hope for an alternative to male leadership by choosing a female president, indicating, "her success will set the stage for other countries to try this alternative."

WiLDAF is convinced that the project will enable Liberian women from some selected communities in the country to take the challenge of claiming their economic, civil and political rights.

The project is expected to make women change agents that advocate for changes in traditional negative practices and values in all villages the project covers.

The project is also expected to immediately create the platform for women to mobilize themselves, increase their knowledge through legal literacy including land rights, government agricultural policies, credit and technology to enable them take advantage of them.

Several strategies have been put in place to jump-start the project and they include training of 40 women farmers as community advocates and setting up 20 Community Mediation Committees on women's rights; training 30 executives, this will include men on women's rights.

Other mechanisms established to make the project a success is the sensitizing of at least 7,000 women and men on various themes related to women's human rights as well as organizing women and committee members into groups to advocate for women's access to land, credit, technology and to other necessary resources.

The project also intends to work on women's access to market opportunities and that would cover WiLDAF's personal contribution to strengthen the experience which the Angie Brook Center is already carrying out through trade at hand and at least 1,500 women farmers will be targeted.

WiLDAF is a Pan African network bringing together organizations and individuals with a view to promoting a culture for the exercise and respect of women's rights in Africa.

From the small group of women from about 10 countries who met in Harare in 1990 for the first meeting that brought into being WiLDAF, the network is now active in more than 25 countries across Africa, South to the Sahara.

In West Africa, the office has been opened since April 1997 and is based in Lome (Togo). It is officially present in 9 countries namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.

"We envisage that in the near future we would be able to open offices in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Niger," the sub regional Coordinator of WiDAF said.

Not only was WiLDAF active at the national level but it raised the African women's rights issues at the regional and international level. In the processes leading up to the 1993 UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, WiLDAF mobilized women across its membership and ensured their participation in the conference.

The now famous Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of women was an initiative of WiLDAF and the first meeting on the possibility of a protocol was held in Lome when WiLDAF hosted a special meeting of the African Commission to discuss women rights under the Charter.

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