Women continue to face oppression in multiple ways from silencing and omission from civil rights to open hostility and violence. By virtue of culture, women have been conditioned to take a back seat or maintain a silent posture whenever there is a gathering. Lack of voice not only hinders women’s welfare at large, but a lack power makes women more vulnerable for violence too, and GBV continues to be a serious threat for women across the country. Despite having limited say, women still bear the main responsibility of homes and tending to family needs, which creates time constraints to take up or even consider opportunities outside of homes. Thus, in the efforts to build resilience of the communities and peaceful and prosperous society at large, helping women to claim their rights to equal education, income, and property and land ownership is critical. Women also need an extra push to ensure that women and men are represented equally in public decision-making and during mobilization campaigns for equality, prosperity, peace and security.
Among EDUCARE’s core strengths is women’s economic empowerment from income generation to control over personal earnings and household income. We provide financial literacy skills, skills for household level economic planning including saving and choosing suitable saving mechanisms and investing income both in people and in personal assets. We also empower women to claim their right for financial decision-making and independence. Our work reaches the existing local women’s groups and individuals and encourages network building when it is for financial benefit and sustainability of families and communities. Such initiatives often require a combination of providing skills for income generation and attitude change, calling for our long-term presence, mentoring and follow up. With our positive experiences so far, we will continue this work both with our existing partners such as UN Women, and in anticipation of identifying new partners in the coming years.
EDUCARE’s priority focus is on building of social capacities and assets of women. As for material capabilities, EDUCARE helps its beneficiaries to increase and sustain their financial assets. Through our projects we continue to support women and youth in developing both means of making a living and professional skills. In the Liberian context increasing resilience and sustaining livelihoods is of great importance, thus, EDUCARE’s projects will also continue to focus on diversifying income sources. Equally importantly, we have worked towards more enabling environment to make a living by for example changing attitudes on gender roles and increasing confidence of young women to seek for opportunities and take positive risks to improve their lives. We have also provided different groups of beneficiaries and equipped them to cope with different vulnerability factors, such as extreme poverty, living with HIV/AIDS and Ebola recovery. This work will continue with our ambition to upscale activities in more communities where needs are identified.
Land and property rights
Land and property rights are a controversial issue and a hindering factor for fighting poverty in Liberia. Access to and securing right to natural resources and land for livelihoods was also one of the issues that fuelled the conflicts between 1989 and 2003. With high rates of land concessions, women are particularly vulnerable for deprivation of rights to land, as patriarchal customary laws that are still practiced widely in the country do not support women’s autonomy or right to land and property. In addition to limited access to and control of assets, women’s absence from critical decision-making processes, which determine power distribution, wealth sharing patterns, social development priorities and approaches to reparation and justice, can have devastating societal and individual consequences for the consolidation of democracy and welfare of women. Women have a key role to play in mitigating and prevention of conflicts over natural resources that can only be realized if they are fully informed and capacitated on relevant issues.
We will work towards better awareness on land rights, laws and law enforcement and access to justice through training and facilitating community dialogues. At the core of our interventions is enhancing knowledge on one’s constitutional rights, justice system and access to justice, as well as attitude change towards more supportive environment regarding women’s land and property rights.
Women in decision making
Liberia has clearly established the need for affirmative action to encourage more women to participate in decision-making processes at all levels. Thus far, the implementation of the affirmative action has not been at the desired level, and all political structures, trade unions and political parties must step up their efforts to increase the number of women from memberships to top leadership positions. We will continue to work towards increased women’s participation at the grassroots level by encouraging women to participate, and men to include women in local decision-making structures. We will also continue to support women’s dialogues and enhance leadership skills to empower women to take up more political space and active roles in all aspects of democratic civic rights and duties.
We will also contribute to the consolidation of democracy by enhancing citizens’ knowledge and skills in participating in public decision-making. Liberia will have the election for Senate in 2020 and general elections in 2023. We will continue to carry out civic and voters’ education campaigns in different counties, promote and guide communities in peaceful electoral processes.
Peace building processes are effective and sustainable only when they foster equitable socio-economic development, accountable and transparent governance, impartial justice and true security for all citizens. Women played an instrumental role in ending Liberia’s conflicts, and they have continued their efforts to ensure peace and stability in post-conflict Liberia. We take an integrated approach to help women to be the agents of change. We promote prevention of GBV, sexual violence, and violence at large and empower women to make decisions on their bodies, lives and families by helping women to build livelihoods and generate income and stand up for themselves when encountering physical, mental, or economic injustice.
Working with women in Peace Huts, Concession Community Women Development Structure (CCWDS), Rural Women Structure in partnership with other organizations including UN Women, UN PBF, IOM and others EDUCARE has been supporting women since 2009 and consider peace building one of the corner stones of our work. We work at the grassroots level for increasing peace and stability of the communities through access to natural resources including land, water, forest resources. At the core of our interventions is not only to ensure women’s rights to participation in peace and development processes but empower them to take roles as drivers to lead community development and peace building.
Organizations that have supported women in peacebuilding particularly under the United Nations programs have taken a coordinated approach, in which EDUCAREs’ role has been to support dialogues, building of peer-support networks for women, and provide training programs on livelihoods. This work will continue in the coming years with the objective of using the established women’s community structures to upscale training programs in additional districts. We will also promote women’s access to justice and protection systems when experiencing violence or threat to violence. Through our programs we aim to enhance knowledge on where to seek help and support and encourage women to do so.
In the coming years we will also explore opportunities to join international women’s peace and conflict resolution networks for further learning and strengthening of the capacities of the national women’s peacebuilding networks, and for advocacy and campaigning for awareness raising in key moments such as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.