Liberia: 'Incorporate More Women Into Liberia's Security Sector'

Mary T. Broh: "We are now in the 21st Century, and women are thriving in almost every role imaginable."

The Director-General of the Government Services Agency (GSA) and Orator of this year's Armed Forces Day celebration, Madam Mary T. Broh, has called for the incorporation of more women in the security sector of Liberia.

Madam Broh made the call yesterday, February 11, 2020, at the 63rd Armed Forces Day celebration held at the Barclay Training Center in central Monrovia under the theme, "Strategies to Incorporate More Females in the security sector: AFL in perspective."

On January 26, 1957, the Liberian Legislature passed into law an Act establishing February 11 each year as Armed Forces Day, to be celebrated as a holiday for citizens to come together recognize and thank the military for their patriotic service to the country.

Madam Broh said she is convinced that there is value in balancing gender roles and representation in the Armed Forces, calling on Liberians to always remember and honor the men and women of the AFL who have made and continue to make enormous sacrifices to ensure the protection of the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Liberia.

Madam Broh recounted that when the AFL was established in 1956, women were still barred from being recruited and enlisted. "It was only in the early 1960s when the glass ceiling was shattered by Mrs. Etta Wright, who was appointed as Assistant Secretary of War for Militia Affairs at the Department of War now known as the Ministry of National Defense," she recalled.

"To date, the new AFL has 82 women, of whom 75 are enlisted and 7 are commissioned-officers. Their ranks range from Private to Brigadier General and three of these women are entrusted as decision-makers. They are Brigadier General Geraldine J. George, Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL, the first woman General in the history of the AFL to serve in this position; Major Hawa Kamara, Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications, and Captain Grace Samolu, Executive Officer (XO) of the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG)," Madam Broh said.

According to Broh, 19 of women in the AFL today serve on Peace Keeping Missions in Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, at both staff and contingent levels.

Madam Broh said while Liberians and partners have gathered as one family to celebrate the 63rd edition of the Armed Forces Day, some people out there are wondering why this day should be celebrated when the country is facing serious economic challenges.

"In 1908, when the Liberia Frontier Force (LFF) was established only men were recruited and enlisted. That was still the case when the LFF was renamed the Liberia National Guard. The thought of recruiting and enlisting women was farfetched," Madam Broh said.

Madam Broh who stated that women have been marginalized at every level in the Liberian society, noted emphatically that women are equally strong like men to be in the army and some have played major roles in the military career in other countries.

"Women have served in the military, in many different roles in various jurisdictions throughout history. In the 17th Century, well-trained women, referred to as Women Warriors of Dahomey, now the Republic of Benin, defended their kingdom against invaders and marauders and inspired fear and won battles for more than 200 years," Madam Broh said.

She said despite strides made toward representation across the continent's militaries, women continue to encounter harassment and discrimination at all levels of service. Madam Broh claims that when conflicts subside, military women often receive fewer awards and other recognition than their male counterparts.

"However, preconceptions about women's roles and abilities have not prevented women from ascending to the highest ranks of their countries militaries. We have Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, of South Africa, the continent's longest-serving woman Defense Minister since 2012; Raychelle Omamo Kenya's defense minister since 2013, and Marie-Noelle Koyara of the Central African Republic who has led her country's armed forces for nearly two years," Madam Broh said.

"As we focus on the roles of women and look at the statistics, we need to step up the representation of women in the AFL. Some still believe that women are the weaker sex, but when we think upon what women endure, from childbirth to motherhood and the ravages of war, we have seen in our lifetime that women are just as capable and strong in spirit and body as men," Madam Broh said.

Madam Broh said there is a need to create an environment that will retain women to improve their opportunities for leadership in the military and beyond, noting, "We should strive to incorporate more women into peacekeeping missions because when we consider the number of years women have been a part of the AFL as Women Auxiliary Corps, we can do much better."

Recalling the current trend of development as it relates to women's role, Madam Broh said Brigadier General Geraldine George has made history as the first woman to rise to the rank of General in the AFL, and the first to serve as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFL.

She further recognized Major Hawa Kamara, Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications, who was commissioned in 2008 as 2nd Lieutenant, and worked hard to achieve her rank, and has attended the staff colleges and serves admirably today. Madam Broh also commended Captain Grace Samolu, Executive Officer (XO) of the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG) and the women in strategic positions in the peacekeeping missions in Mali, Sudan, and South Sudan who are serving as Military Observers, Battle Watch Captains, and Logistics Operations Specialist.

She said these instances tell us that indeed women are capable of not only serving in the military, but leading the Military but some of the African brothers remain beholden to tradition, and may see the ascendency of women in the military as taboo.

"We are now in the 21st Century, and women are thriving in almost every role imaginable. We see women serving in combat as Pilots in the military and commercial sector, plumbers, masons, and carpenters, mechanics, and astronauts," she said.

She said Liberia set the pace in 2005, when she elected the First woman President in Liberia and in all of Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who proudly led our nation for twelve years and that women are more than capable and deserving of full representation in leadership roles throughout the Military.

She then lauded the Minister of Defense, Major General Daniel D. Ziankahn, Jr. (Rtd), Chief of Staff, of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Major General Prince Charles Johnson, III, "for a job well done with the Military of this Nation."

'We commend your efforts to ensure women are not subjected to sexual harassment, sexual abuse, bullying and marginalization of females in the AFL. We implore you to do everything within your power to increase the number of women in leadership roles at both the officer and non-commissioned levels," she added.

Madam Broh, who has a respected track record of diligence and leadership at the helm of various public entities, also told women, "Let us not restrict our service to our families or to our jobs, but render our services to our communities, to the hospitals, to schools, and other areas around us in need of our support. This call is not only for the women in the military but to all women in this great nation," she added.

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