Liberia is hosting a two-day International Women Colloquium, beginning today, March 7, the second under the Sirleaf administration. The colloquium or conference is being held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports stadium in Paynesville, outside Monrovia jointly convened by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Spain, Ms. Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega.
Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Siene Abdul Bak told a news conference in Monrovia last week that about 1,500 participants from Liberia are expected at this year’s Colloquium, which will focus on women leadership across various sectors, identify challenges and highlight lessons learned to enhance women empowerment.
But we believe the International Women Colloquium would become another mere talking shop here and thus meaningless, if its outcome does not impact ordinary lives, particularly women from the lowest echelon of society, who survive daily on the fringes of life.
We’re talking about women at the grassroots level, who give their all to upkeep the family and the home as well as the economic wheels turning. They are the foot soldiers in the continuous struggle to elevate women from the back seat of society to the front.
Over the years, we have observed with much disdain that women from the fringes of society are usually mobilized whenever such international fora are in the making so that they can play to the glares of the media and foreign guests, after which they are abandoned.
Advocates and champions of women empowerment and leadership should be reminded in no uncertain terms that the struggle would become meaningless if there were continuous disconnect between the few privileged women at the top and the vast majority, who hang on the fringes.
This is why we think it is important that the current colloquium also brings on the table for discussion issues that affect women at the grassroots level, including safe-drinking water, electricity, health and maternal mortality, paved roads and access to market as well as schools for their children, among others.
These are the survival issues that are militating against their overall wellbeing and thus, denying them a voice. We challenge the conveners of the 2017 International Women Colloquium – President Ellen Johnson Sireaf and the Spanish ex-Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega to include these issues in the discussions for these two days, not only for the benefit of Liberian women, but underprivileged women all over the world.