LIBERIA – In continuation of the implementation process of the Spotlight Initiative project supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the women’s rights group medica Liberia (mL) at the weekend held a two-day training session to develop gender mainstreaming strategies and integrate Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) into development plan activity.
The training is part of the many activities being undertaken by mL under the Spotlight Initiative project titled: ‘’Strengthening women’s rights advocates’ capacities to support the integration of ending violence against women and girls into county development agendas targeting policymakers and other stakeholders” with UNDP being the contributing UN agency, funded by European Union (EU).
The top-level national training brought together Development Superintendents from the five spotlight counties, namely; Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh Counties eight women rights groups from those counties.
It comes on the heel of the completion of a capacity-building training of 200 individuals representing gross roots women rights advocates across those five counties.
Speaking at the opening of the forum, the Head of the Program at mL, Madam Emily Frank, explained that the training was intended for stakeholders to look at the counties’ existing documents to make inputs that mainstream gender into those documents.
She said the initiative is to ensure that the development agendas and policies of those five spotlight counties have gender lenses so that the same would be replicated in the overall development agenda of the country.
“You were invited to support this program that seeks to promote gender inclusion in our development processes. This project seeks to mainstream gender into the development processes because this has been a key issue over the years,” said Madam Frank.
“So for this training today, we will be looking at the counties’ existing documents, to see what we can make inputs to, to mainstream gender into those documents. Whatever you think is necessary for this gathering should be included in the development process of the counties. So instead of looking at specific or just one document at the national level, we think it’s good to go at the county level and start with the county development,” she indicated.
“Once the county is developed and has gender lens in all of its policy documents, we think that men, women, and children will benefit from county development,” the mL Program head added.
Madam Annie Gizzie Woyea, Executive Director of Lofa Women Network for Liberia (LOWN) based in Zorzor, Lofa County, sees the project as rewarding and educative in the sense that provides the opportunity to push the interest of the most marginalized groups in society, while at the same time strengthening the capacities of locals to push their own involvement in the decision making processes at the local level.
LOWN is one of the women-led organizations that were given a call for proposals to contribute to this project, an opportunity Madam Woyea is pleased with.
“Being one of the grantees, we are here to participate in this capacity-building exercise, as it relates to the revision of the project and implementation plans of the activities. It is rewarding and educative and it gives us the opportunity to push in our interest as a group in society as this is geared to strengthening the capacity of locals as they push for their own involvement in the decision-making processes at the local level,” the women advocacy group head noted.
“I think this is going to do a lot of great things for us. It will restore self-confidence in women to advocate for their own rights and will make them form part of major decision-making processes at different levels. Under this project, we are mostly going to be involved in engaging in various state actors including the Legislature and local authorities on the inclusion of gender into our county’s development plans and activities,” Madam Woyea furthered.
“Also, we are going to use this opportunity to train women to know their full rights so that they can stand the chance to participate in the county decision-making processes at local governance levels, where they can also take the challenge to go out there to contest other statuses like local level leaderships like town chiefs, paramount chiefs, commissioners and national level positions such as Representatives and Senators,” she pointed out.
Madam Woyea wants all hands on deck in addressing all forms of gender and sexual-based violence.
“We should see this as an opportunity for all of us to tackle the issue of gender and sexual-based violence because this is everyone’s business. Ending violence against women should be everyone’s involvement. I want to call on local authorities to get involved in the campaign of ending violence against the marginalized in society,” she mentioned.
Mr. Railey G. Myers, Assistant Superintendent for Development of Nimba County, says gender mainstreaming in the country’s development process is the right step in the right direction to inclusive development because this approach leaves no one behind.
“Gender mainstreaming in our time is the right step in the right direction and we all should find a way to work in line with that because in making decisions, people of all walks of life including disabilities others voices should be heard at the top decision-making table,” the Nimba County Development Superintendent maintained.
He disclosed that Nimba County has moved some tangible steps towards gender inclusiveness, especially when it comes to addressing the plight of the marginalized.
“This idea is new and no one is on top of it, but gradually we are getting there. In Nimba, we have made some strides; for instance, we all agreed at our county sitting that people with disability be given a space and so a modern office was constructed is in the county.
Nimba is taking some steps in the promotion of gender issues. There will be more done after this project. This project will help to boost our intent and I can assure you that there will be more gender-inclusive activities,” the Nimba County assistant administrator among other things stated.