Monrovia — The European Union (EU) Delegation to Liberia sponsored Inclusive Civic and Political Participation and Peaceful Election Project has strengthened the capacity of scores of Muslim, disabled and marginalized Liberian women to engage into the democratic and decision-making processes in their respective communities and the country at large.
The project worth US$470, 000 was launched by the EU in Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Bong, Montserrado, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe counties. The funding was provided by Irish Aid.
The project is being implemented by ZOA in partnership with the Liberia Peace Building Office with the primary objective to establish a more conducive environment for women's and people living with disabilities' participation in civic and political life, based on an inclusive dialogue with empowered local women and disabled groups.
Speaking during a visit of the EU Delegation to Liberia recently, one of the beneficiaries of the project, Madam Watta Fofana recounted the significant impact the project has made on her personal life and a group she serves as one of its executives.
"I tell ZOA thank you. We the women from the Muslim religion, for women to stand to speak, it used to be difficult. But now, ZOA made me to be proud to stand anywhere to speak for myself. I like when I am speaking, I walking around. Government never knew about us while we were in this town".
"The Senatorial election that just went on, if it was not ZOA, government was not going to count us. Quannu Bonu women name is on the list. ZOA has made that we are working with government and the Superintendent has given us office".
Madam Fofana is the Co-Chair of the Quarnu Bonu Women Organization.
For her part, Madam Julia Blama claimed that the project has immensely help to empower the beneficiaries both civilly and politically.
She noted that the project has improved her skills to mobilize and speak to people without fear.
"I want to thank those that sponsored this project for ZOA. If you people were not going to sponsor ZOA, they were not going to come to empower us. When ZOA came, they said they want to empower us. When we hear about empowerment in Liberia, we think about money business".
"But ZOA made me to understand that the empowerment was for us the women to come on board with the men; and surely, we came on board. Empowerment does not only mean money. ZOA told me that they can empower me to become leader within my community and even if you want to be Representative or Paramount Chief".
Madam Blama, however, vowed to contest for an elected position, including Paramount Chief, if she is supported by her fellow women.
She pointed out that the knowledge gained from the project will help ensure that women do not become "second to the motion" during decision making in their respective communities and the country at large.
"ZOA went so far and told me that I should not stay behind; I should be part of the decision making or when men or people say your come, I should say your go and anything your say, I will be part of it; or I must not be second to the motion; I must always find space somewhere when there is no space for my voice to be heard. Today, my voice is being heard within my district and clan because, nothing they do there without informing me".
She, however, used the occasion to urge her fellow compatriots not to see empowerment opportunities being accorded them as a means to make money, but to focus on the knowledge that would be achieved from to enable them make independent decision from the grass root to all national levels.
"For we the Muslim women, for us to stand in public and talk (speak), it is not an easy thing; when men are sitting somewhere, you can't even pass there. Muslim women for you to pass among public, you will kneel down before you pass. But this time around, we are able to stand among public and talk", Mrs. Madusu S. Kamara disclosed.
She is presently a student of the Good Samaritan Nursing School in Margibi County.
She disclosed that though she was only a high school graduate who normally took care of her family at home, her decision taken to advance her education was based upon a meeting with officials of ZOA.
She pointed out that she is presently being referred to as "boss lady" by her colleagues working at the C. H. Rennie Hospital in the county even though she was sent at the medical facility for a "job training" by her institute.
Mrs. Kamara attributed the respect she has gained among her colleagues to her desire to always be willing to learn many things at the medical facility.
"Let me tell ZOA thank you. It's because of you people, I am where I am today. Although we cannot speak good English, but we can't be afraid to stand among public to talk one or two things".
Also speaking, one of the Zonal Heads of the Disabled Community in Margibi disclosed that the project has played a pivotal role by educating women on their constitutional rights.
Madam Satta S. Sesay disclosed that though they have gained adequate knowledge on their civil and political rights, they remain respectful to their respective husbands.
She added that despite their submission, they cannot allow their rights to be infringed upon.
"We want to say today that we can't challenge our husbands, but they know that we know our rights now. We still want to learn more and we want to tell your thank you and you people should continue with the project".
Meanwhile, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, challenged the beneficiaries to help ensure that the project has a positive effect on the next generation.
He noted that the beneficiaries should share the knowledge gained in an effort to ensure that women are fully represented in the decision-making process of the country.
Ambassador Delahousse stated that women should participate in the democratic process of the nation to guarantee genuine values of tolerance, mutual understanding, peace and reconciliation in the Liberian society.