-At HOPE Liberia dialogue

Traditional Women from across Liberia have concluded an intense one day dialogue on traditional rite of passage, outlining recommendations and requests for an alternative to the end of the harmful traditional practices.

Following the recent reawakened efforts by the government and international partners in ending female genital mutilation in Liberia, the traditional women disclosed that among several other reasons, the practice of FGM has been a source of sustainability for them.

Because of this, countless interventions, including the construction of alternative livelihood centers in four FGM counties, (Montserrado, Nimba, Grand Cape Mount, and Bong), through the Spotlight initiative was initiated by international partners.

To continue with this and ensure that women don’t return to the bush, HOPE Liberia recently supported a one day session for the women to dialogue on alternative priorities or interventions. Through this, the women, followed thorough consultation among themselves, recommended the need for the support of agricultural initiatives (farming), business, both formal and informal education, the availability of centers in the remaining seven counties, their representation and participation in traditional related forums, health care centers at the various heritage centers and several others.

Chief Zanzan Karwor: “We all got to decide, if it’s one role we all will carry, let’s decide. The ban on traditional practices was soon be lifted, we got to protect our name, we want to keep our culture but what is that best thing in the culture that we want to keep.” He adds- “The Ministry of Internal Affairs will signdocuments and I will approve it.”

At the event, he appreciated the women’s decision, and admonished them to remain committed to positive traditional practices, as the ban on FGM will be lifted in the coming months.

Through said engagement, he noted that the women will come up with a draft on what that will be consider as a replacement. He maintained that it will not be intended to cancel the entire tradition, but the harmful aspect. Following this, he says he will organize an appointment at his home for them to decide on the next alternative. 

Also, he disclosed the lifting of the ban on poro, Chief. Karworhailed the president for conceding defeat and accepting the election result as the people decided. 

As the implementing partner, Liberia’s Traditional Queen, Juli Endee, termed the dialogue as a desk review, to be followed by a validation. Like Chief. Karwor- she rallied the women to avoid harmful traditional practices. At the dialogue, the traditional Women from across Liberia concluded on traditional rite of passage, outlining recommendations and requests for an alternative to the end of the harmful traditional practices.

The National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia (NACCEL) led by Chief Zanzan Kawor, on February 21st, 2022, announced the suspension of FGM for 3 years.

The announcement was made at a tripartite event hosted by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social protection (MOGCSP) and graced by the Vice President of Liberia, Chief Dr Jewel Howard Taylor, Niels Scott, UN Resident Coordinator for Liberia, Ambassadors of the European, Ireland and Sweden as well as Ministers of Justice; Education; and Labour; representative of civil society organisations, among others. The Anti-SGBV National Call Center was also launched by the Vice President at the event.

 Chief Zanzan Kawor, presented a 6 Count Policy statement to the Minister of Gender, Children and Social, Hon. Williametta Saydee Tarr, who in turn presented the policy statement to the Vice President, Chief Dr Jewel Howard Taylor. The statement was signed by 150 traditional leaders from 11 FGM practicing counties in Liberia, Ministry of Internal Affairs and MGCSP to signal their approval to suspend Female Genital Mutilation(FGM)  in Liberia for three years with immediate effect.

 The three-year suspension on FGM follows a one-year ban which was imposed in 2019 through the Ganta Declaration when traditional leaders signed a 7 Count Policy Statement for the temporary suspension of Sande Activities for a period of one year on 25 June 2019. However, this ban came to an end in June 2020 and there was no legal provision to stop the practice. The suspension of FGM is in line with the objectives of the European Union, United Nations and Government of Liberia Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls including harmful practices such as FGM.

Helping Our People Excel (HOPE), Inc. is a non-for-profit entity incorporated in 2010 under the Association Law of 1976 of the Republic of Liberia. HOPE is managed by independent non-partisan professionals with the requisite educational background and practical experience in various fields.

Due to the 14-years civil crisis, women and girls have had limited access to information and services on sexual reproduction health and rights, civic participation, and livelihood opportunities. They also face many challenges ranging from sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse (SHEA), teenage pregnancy, lack of financial support, and harmful traditional practices to being underrepresented in all areas of society. However, when they are educated, healthy and safe, they can create positive change in their lives and lives of others and the future of Liberia.

HOPE’s gender perspective focuses on the attributes associated with being male and female, relationships between and among men and women, boys, and girls, and with how this affects the distribution of power, resources and opportunities. We understand that these attributes, opportunities, and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context specific and changeable. Therefore, we are intentional in engaging boys and young men in discussions and actions that address the effects of power asymmetries, inequity, social and gender norms on the health and rights of women and girls.

To this end, HOPE continues to be a leading non-for-profit local entity championing the cause of women and girls in Liberia, focusing on sexual reproductive health and rights, education for children (both boys and girls) and leadership development for women and girls.

Intrinsically- HOPE’s mission is to “promote Women and Children’s social, economic and educational empowerment through personal development opportunities, building strong community partnerships, policy review and advocacy”. HOPE emphasizes ownership and empowerment by bringing the beneficiaries and key institutions together to discuss social issues.

To ensure the social, educational and economic empowerment of women and children (most especially girls) in Liberia.

HOPE has a work culture based on good values, which all internal staff and external stakeholders should recognize and adhere to. Our values are: Trust – Transparency – Accountability -Responsibility – Participation – Excellence – Respect Commitment – Collective Care.

HOPE employs a gender and human rights-based approach. This approach is applied throughout our work, with a focus on the principles of non-discrimination and equal access, participation and ownership, accountability and transparency, and the rule of law. Over the last ten years, HOPE has empowered more than 500 women and girl as leaders in across Liberia; constructed 2 POWER Centers to create a safe space for women to get help and receive survivor support in rural communities; established and continue to support 2 Women Economic Empowerment Cooperatives; provided scholarships to over a 100 children for primary and secondary education; and played leading advocacy roles for the adoption/declaration of several instruments including the Monrovia Declaration to the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Manifesto for the Development and Empowerment of the Girl Child which has been translated into a 3-year national implementation plan, and the passage of the Children’s Law, 2011.