Women NGOs of Liberia encouraged to view themselves as vanguards of peace


Monrovia, Liberia - Liberia's women should not be looked on only as victims of war but as "vanguards of peace", the UN envoy in the country, Mr. Alan Doss recently said as he addressed the opening session of the third annual General Assembly of the Women Non-Governmental Organizations Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) held in the capital, Monrovia. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) also called for the mobilization and inclusion of women from "all corners" of the country to realize lasting peace and reconciliation. "Such inclusion can only be achieved through the strengthening of democratic institutions necessary to ensure peace, security, human rights and justice for all."

Mr. Doss stated that inclusive approach would help towrads the success of the ongoing recovery and reconstruction process in Liberia. "Bringing together and supporting women NGOs and groups, as WONGOSOL is doing, will not only ensure this strengthened capacity, but will also guarantee that women's voices are heard and heeded in all spheres of local life," Mr. Doss pointed out. He also urged that a collective approach be taken by international and national organizations in Liberia, including WONGOSOL, in the campaign against rape, which he described as, "by far the most serious crime committed against women and girls in Liberia." More must be done to prevent and punish the crime of rape, he stressed.

In her opening remarks, Minister of Gender and Development, Varbah Gayflor, said the problems of Liberian women remained deep-seated as a consequence of the prolonged conflict in the country. Encouraging smaller organizations to merge with the larger ones, she said WONGOSOL should work together as a group to deal with issues in all areas that concern the welfare of Liberia's women and girls. "WONGOSOL is a major partner of the Government," she continued. "Without their support, the Ministry would be constrained in their efforts to mobilize Liberian women."

The Gender Minister also proposed that, in an effort to build capacity, an assessment of national NGOs be undertaken, especially those located in the rural areas. She also disclosed that the Government was preparing to study the gender component of the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy paper, which guides the development and recovery efforts in the country.

WONGOSOL was started in December 2005, with support from UNMIL, and presently partners with a number of regional and international organizations. The two-day meeting was an initiative of UNMIL's Office of the Gender Advisor and brought together women from around the country to discuss ways to collaborate on policies and issues that affect women in Liberia.

Also present at the opening event were WONGOSOL Chairperson, Amelia Ward, Coordinator, Cerue Konah Garlo and UNMIL Senior Gender Advisor, Joana Foster, among other officials.