Leila B. Gbati

Paramount Young Women Initiative ( PAYOWI) and partners on Thursday, October 14, 2021 hosted a one-day National Young Women Leadership Conference under the theme: “Embracing the change: Building young women transformational leadership skills,” held at iCampus on Carey Street.

The conference is also part of the project titled “Enough! -Empowering women, girls, boys and men to take positive action in ending Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Liberia.

The conference brought together females taking up leadership roles in various capacities. They were drawn from various backgrounds, including high schools, universities, and communities.

Giving the overview of the Enough Project and National Young Women Conference, the Project Coordinator of PAYOWI, Hawa C. Wilson said the project is being funded by the European Union in Liberia through OXFAM Liberia and FCI.

Ms. Wilson said the conference forms part of the Enough Project, indicating that it is a global project that is being run across the world, with Liberia not being the only implementing country.

She disclosed that the Project seeks to fight against all forms of violence against women and girls and its aim is centered on creating an enabling environment for women and girls to know and claim their rights.

She indicated that the project has two major objectives, naming both as strengthening the institutional technical capacity of CSOs and women-led organizations, as well as communities, to talk about SGBV-related issues through advocacy and influencing policy.

“It is under this component we are here today and we have been working for the past seven months now under the transformative component under which we were able to run a 12-week section with the high schools that they run their mentoring programs in and were also able to support approximately five young women leaders in their various high schools to take on leadership roles and responsibilities,” she said.

According to her, the second objective is to ensure that negative and rated gender norms that perpetrating and normalizing harmful social norms against women and girls are challenged and changed; emphasizing that under this component, lots of activities including the training of men and boys in a 12-week engagement on harmful gender norms would be undertaken.

She disclosed that the rationale behind training boys and men about harmful gender norms is a positive way of male inclusion aimed at teaching them to coexist at the community level with females, because according to her, most often, men are perpetrators of violence against women.

In an opening statement earlier, the National Female Youth Chair of Movement for One Liberia, Rachel Benson, who spoke on behalf of Madam MacDella Cooper, political leader of the opposition Movement for One Liberia, said most often, women are being discriminated against in their communities by their male counterparts because they feel women are weak-minded when it comes to undertaking certain things.

Ms. Benson urged girls to understand that no matter where they come from, be it relationship, family background or being the only girl among her siblings who are boys, they shouldn’t be afraid of speaking out and making a difference in becoming the leader that they want to be.

She thanked PAYOWI for the wonderful program and for giving women and girls the opportunity to learn, understand and to be strong in becoming who they want to be.

Also speaking the, the Head of PAYOWI, Madam Facia Harris, reminded young women that they are all leaders in their various capacities, urging them to conduct themselves as leaders with opened minds to be able to learn, because according to her, leadership is about learning and influencing others to follow a path that they believe in.

Madam Harris also told the girls that leadership is about bringing changes, selling ideas to people and influencing them and to conduct themselves in manners that they will be able to follow through with what they want to achieve.

For her part, Representative Rosana GDH Schaack, speaking on the topic Diversity of Womanhood, told the girls that diversity means differences, emphasizing that though they are females by birth, but the distinction between a woman and a man is the private parts.

Rep Schaack said that apart from the gender of both males and females, they come from different backgrounds and those different backgrounds influence who they become.

She informed her audience about the intent to establish a transformative leadership with females, stressing that the topic couldn’t have been better for a time like this most especially when Liberia is at a cross road.

She admonished the girls to begin thinking about politically representing their various constituencies, because according to her, their people need them, and that most especially, Liberia needs them.

“How can we come together as women of Liberia whether we are civilized, educated or not educated or we are half literate or not literate, whoever we are, whatever situation we come from and we find ourselves in we are each valuable and so we want you all after this conference today other speakers look within yourself and see what do I have,” she said.

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