United States Ambassador Christine Elder on Tuesday urged Liberian women to create networking opportunities based on shared interests.
"Make your network diverse and build integrity to have great results in every approach," said Elder, who spoke during one of the panel discussions organized as part of the International Women's Day Colloquium 2017, held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe stadium in Paynesville. She was one of four panelists who led a discussion on the theme: Building Alliances and Networking for Gender Equality."
The two-day event which brought together women from all across the country and more than a dozen international guests was a follow-up to the 2009 Women's Colloquium held in Liberia to celebrate President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's election as Africa's first female president.
The event was aimed at sharing lessons learned and accomplishments made since the last colloquium and to also examine what needs to be done to advance women's equality in all sectors of development. More than 1,600 people attended the event held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Elder said she admires Liberian women's tireless efforts to bring about change in their communities and nation. In order to empower women, she said Liberia needs to develop vocational education opportunities for rural women who want to improve their lives.
Vocational Education, she said, is key to women's empowerment.
In addition to the discussion on creating networking opportunities for women, other topics focused on enhancing women's economic empowerment, women's leadership, political participation and empowering women through inter-generational dialogue.
The discussions on networking was moderated by Dr. Thelma Awori, executive director of the Institute for Social Transformation. The other three panelists were: Dr. Margaret Kilo, resident representative of the African Development Bank; Cecilia Danawulo, executive director of the Women in Peacebuilding Networking (WIPNET); and Ma Kebbeh Zayzay Monger, president of the National Rural Women of Liberia.
In her remarks, Madam Monger said Liberian women must stop asking for "free things" and work harder to achieve their goals. Women, she said, have too many problems among them.
"Take advantage of every opportunity given to you," she said, "build alliances and network. There are great things we can do as women if we stop asking and work more."
Danawulo told participants in the session of how WIPNET built alliances and networked with women all across the country. The "power of networking," she said, "is what holds us together."
Women, she said, should form relations with people from diverse backgrounds, so they can expand their networking skills and create better results. Women must assert themselves, so that they can make their voices heard.
Margaret Kilo, resident representative of the African Development Bank, said the 2017 Colloquium was significant because women from all across Liberia celebrated President Sirleaf's leadership role as Africa's first female president as her tenure draws to an end.
Liberian women, she said, still have to do more work to achieve full equality. As President Sirleaf prepares to leave office, some men are concerned about electing another woman to the presidency. She urged men not to be intimidated by women's participation in politics, but join in the effort to ensure that both genders are represented in government.
"Men should not be intimidated by women because all we want as women is 50-50 equal right participation," she said.