MONROVIA – With the resumption of the in-person meetings of the CSW due to the reduction in Covid 19 cases worldwide, prominent international and national women’s organizations from Liberia and across the globe including the B4P CODEFOUND have fulfilled one of the biggest gatherings of women history in New York.
The convergence of women was in keeping with the celebration of March 8, International Women’s Day, Black History/International Women’s month of March, and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 67).
As a side event to the UN and CSW meetings held annually, the third edition of the Liberia-Diaspora Dialogue Women and Youth Forum or LDDWYF- An initiative of B4P CODEFOUND, was held in collaboration with key women’s rights and civil society organizations including the Women NGO Secretariat (WONGOSOL), The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Sister AID Liberia (SALI) and Capacity for Youth (C4Y) amongst others. In support of the global theme approved by the CSW, this year’s LDDWYF was held on the Theme: Technology and Digital Literacy: Opportunities and challenges for fostering resilience through women’s rights advocacy, political participation, land governance, and innovative private sector development.
The Forum aims to foster dialogue, localize the CSW, and provide Liberian women and youth the opportunity to gain experience, and amplify their voices as well as enhance their advocacy and leadership potentials where they find themselves. As a strategy for inclusion, non-Liberian women and youth from other nationalities and/or immigrant communities are usually invited to enrich the discussions.
The driving force behind the convergence of the Liberia-Diaspora Dialogue Women and Youth Forum is the Founder and Executive Director of the Business for Peace Community Development Foundation (B4P CODEFOUND) International, Lindora Kolu Howard-Diawara.
Speaking on ECOWAS Radio from New York, on March 9th, Madam Lindora Kolu Howard-Diawara narrated that this year CSW will provide women the opportunity to come together (in person) in the State of New York to assess the progress being made toward gender equality and women empowerment, discuss key opportunities and issues affecting women worldwide, as well as proffer cogent recommendations in addressing the issues affecting women and girls-particularly those in rural communities.
Madam Howard-Diawara said this year’s theme of the CSW would mainly focus on “Digital Literacy and Technology” with the hope of assessing challenges and exploring opportunities for ensuring that women and youth are not left behind given the current gap in technology and digital literacy. She noted that technology has, and continues to positively impact the social, economic, and political life of people globally, and highlighted the need for doing more in ensuring the inclusion of women and youth in Liberia and the diaspora.
The B4P CODEFOUND Executive Director, providing details about the Liberia-Diaspora Dialogue (LDDWYF), reported that women from the diaspora, civil society, and the government of Liberia had been given the opportunity to serve in previous dialogues as panelists.
For this year, she indicated that key panelists would include community volunteers and entrepreneurs including Ms. Grace Pope of Totota, Bong County, Mr. Jeremiah Lloyd Cooper, of Nimba County, Mrs. Loretta Alethea Pope Kai, of Monrovia and Mrs. Zaridania Carmona Tongor, of Ohio, USA.
Although this year’s meeting was being held in New York, She further indicated that another key objective of the LDDWYF is to localize the CSW wherein women and youth in Liberia with every little opportunity to access visa and plane fares to go to the United States would have the opportunity to connect with others in New York via technology (Zoom and Facebook) to dialogue about issues of importance for Liberian women and youth at home and the diaspora.
In fulfillment of this localization process, three in-person meetings were held in Monrovia and Gbarnga and hosted by WANEP, Capacity for Youth, and B4P CODEFOUND Liberia.
The LDDWYF meeting was held in New York on March 10, at the Bahai International Community’s United Nations Office and was attended by more than 120 in-person and virtual participants including representatives of the Liberian Government and Civil society delegation headed by Minister Piso Saydee Tarr, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MOGCSOP).
Others in attendance included Noble Peace Prize Laureate and B4P CODEFOUND’s Advisor on Women, Peace, and Security-Madame Leymah Roberta Gbowee; Chief Zanzan Kawa- Head of the Liberian Traditional Council, Mrs. Sieta Fofana Saah, National Coordinator of the Council of Chiefs and Elders, Liberia’s Cultural Ambassador Julie Endee, and Ms. Yar Parwon, Country Director of medica Liberia who also served as a panelist discussing issues of land governance, women’s rights ownership and technological opportunities for advancement.
Madame Gbowee in her remarks expressed excitement about the efforts being made by Liberia women in making use of technological opportunities but indicated that while more needed to be done, she was hopeful that next year’s webinar or meeting will not only be limited to Liberia but include post-conflict countries like South Sudan and D.R. Congo to allow for learning of lessons aimed at strengthening women’s work across the continent.
She pledged her support to B4P CODEFOUND and encouraged all to not only reimagine women’s empowerment but also reimagine collaboration going forward. For her part, Minister Williametta Piso Saydee Tarr, called for Liberians to take advantage of the new electoral biometric systems trainings and do all things necessary to help educate others and to also disseminate information that will help enhance the electoral process.
Given the global digital advancements, she urged women to make use of the technological opportunities to fight against issues of gender-based violence and also work together honestly, purposefully, and intentionally to help eradicate all ills against women and girls.
For their part, the Program Director of the West African Network for Peacebuilding Madam Delphine Morris, and the Executive Director of the Capacity for Youth Mr. Daniel Fully applauded the Founder and Executive Director of B4P CODEFOUND for her innovative initiative not only for creating a space for Liberians at home and in the diaspora to engage and dialogue but for localizing activities of the CSW in Liberia.
Madam Morris and Mr. Fully acknowledged the Theme of the 2023 CSW which focuses mainly on “Digital literacy and Technology” Education for women universally. They said, women and youth constitute a very large portion of the population in Liberia and at such they need to be enlightened and supported to access more digital literacy and technological trainings, promising to raise awareness in Liberia for women and youth inclusion.
Meanwhile, B4P CODEFOUND climaxed this year’s LDDWYF activities with a community engagement meeting held on March 11, on the theme: Women United for Peace, in collaboration with the Staten Island Liberian Association (SILCA), Quest for Uniting, Embracing, & Empowering a New Sisterhood (QUEENS), and Ms. Iola Washington- First African and Liberian female State Committee member of Staten Island, and member of the Board of Trustees of the African Community Alliance of Staten Island (ACASI).
This meeting again brought together Liberian Women in the diaspora and members of the Liberian Delegation on Staten Island. Representing Minister Piso Saydee this time around was Minister Mamensie Kabba, Assistant Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MOGCSOP). Serving as special guests were the District Attorney of New York City, Michael McMahon, and the Senator of the 23rd District of New York, Senator Jessica Spanton.
This meeting created the space for all participating groups to share their work, allow for questions and answers specifically regarding the work of the Ministry of Gender but also highlight the need for Liberian women to unite across states and countries to help promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, girls, and youths in the diaspora and in Liberia.
In closing, Madam Howard-Diawara thanked groups in the diaspora for all that they do but urged that they do more in helping to deal with the issues and challenges confronting Liberians in the United States, Liberia, and the diaspora at large. She stressed the importance of access to information and called others to join B4P CODEFOUND in promoting networking and collaboration within and across Liberia and the diaspora.
To the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, she joined others in calling for engagement opportunities and recommended that there be a unit created or an assigned person that will be tasked with the responsibility of working and liaising with the Foundation and other groups working within and across the Liberian diaspora to help foster cross country engagements including volunteerism, community development, and civil society capacity building, amongst others.
She thanked all collaborating partners and guests for attending and invited all to join the Foundation and others in preparing for the fourth session of the LDDWYF expected to take place in March 2024.
Finally, Lindora Kolu Howard-Diawara informed everyone that the Liberian Branch of B4P CODEFOUND would be launched in Gbarnga Bong County, on June 2nd, 2023, and called all to support the work of the Foundation and its local partners.
B4P CODEFOUND is a Liberian-inspired International NGO with registration statuses in the United States of America and in Liberia. It seeks to increase the voice and agency of women and girls by building their capacities to access resources and tools for social justice, cohesion, and financial independence.