Just like the rest of the world, Liberia has struggled with its own share of gender issues. Recently, however, there’s been a growing number of efforts in Liberia to raise awareness about gender based violence (GBV), girls not being sent to school, systemic inequalities as well as many other challenges that are daily being faced across Liberia (and the rest of the world too!).
In my community, we have a group of community members called “WISE Men” which meets to discuss these issues. They’re sponsored by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and actively work to raise awareness about this topic in the community. My city mayor, principal, vice principal, and a number of fellow teachers are all members. There’s also “WISE Women” groups (which is how I think this NRC program started), but I’ve been much more aware of the men meeting in my community (maybe because it’s a newer thing).
Earlier this month (3/8/14) was International Women’s Day, so the WISE men and women in my community organized a big parade down our main street, right past my house. We had a brass band and everything:
After the parade, we all went inside the city hall for the program. (I blanked out the name of my site on the city hall to comply with Peace Corps security policy)
While we were all still settling inside, I got this picture with some parade members and the guest speaker at the event (in the purple). She’s a doctor at our local clinic. And my principal is there too, second from the left!
You can also read some of the slogans of the hats they wore in the parade. Other common slogans included “Stop beating on your wife”, “Rape is not good”, “Please respect women”, etc.
The event started with spontaneous dancing when the DJ put on some music:
But the scheduled program quickly got underway. There were speeches, skits, dance competitions, certificates, and then a big feast at the end.
In case you’re wondering why I’m behind the podium… it’s because whenever I go to an event I’m always seated with the honored guests and important memberes of the community. It’s rather flattering.
Here’s the dance competition:
The people around the dancers are throwing money. That’s what’s traditionally done for dancers/performers in Liberia.
Here’s my principal getting his certificate for completing a stage in the “WISE Men” program:
And finally, our feast: That’s a plate of beans and rice with fried fish and chicken I’m holding there, with the line for it in the background. mmm. They had that and fried potato greens, another popular Liberian dish.
The whole program was quite a success! I certainly enjoyed it! Happy International Women’s day!