By Tanya Garnett, Social Impact Chief of Party USAID/Liberia Strategic Analysis
This year’s International Women’s Day in Liberia was fully celebrated over the course of a month, leaving one gender specialist to remark her excitement at the interest and exhaustion at the many events in town! It’s clear that IWD is gaining much needed importance and visibility in Liberia, and even globally.
Social Impact’s Liberia Strategic Analysis activity implements USAID/Liberia’s Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) agenda, which seeks to drive development effectiveness through meaningful stakeholder engagement and shared learning experiences. The IWD 2020 event was an amazing opportunity to deepen our understanding of the challenges Liberian women face, while celebrating their resilience and tenacity to push forward in the face of adversity.
In the spirit of collaboration and relationship building with stakeholders, USAID/Liberia partnered with the Swedish Embassy, Kvinna till Kvinna, UN Women, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), to bring together organizations working towards gender equality throughout the country. With Social Impact’s support, these partners co-organized an afternoon of awareness-raising and celebrations for over 150 guests, with particular focus on engaging youth, both female and male, and rural women. The University of Liberia’s new Honors College for Gender Studies was featured, as well as several He for She Champions – men who advocate for gender equality.
The event featured an interactive IWD 2020 Mural selection, where participants painted and voted for the best mural design that will be displayed throughout the year. There were Booths for Change, a mini-market of women’s organizations showcasing their income generation activities, such as locally produced soaps, colorful ‘lappa’ fabric bags, reusable sanitary napkins and organic woven cotton or county cloth, as it’s known locally. The twenty-five member Kissi Mass Women’s Choir motivated participants with traditional song and dance.
Given this year’s IWD theme of #EachforEqual and UN Women’s #GenerationEquality, the IWD event featured women breaking barriers in male-dominated fields such as politics, law enforcement and security, engineering, and the energy sector. Our esteemed keynote female politician and all-woman panel shared their personal stories, discussed their challenges in these fields, and gave concrete recommendations for young people interested in these career paths. Collectively, these were stories of discrimination, perseverance and the hope that their hard work will pave the way for future generations of professional women. We hope these key takeaways from our dynamic guest speakers will inspire you to create a more gender equal world:
Determination is key: Follow your passion; Be prepared to work hard; Stay focused; Develop tolerance for difference; Don’t be content, always challenge yourself to do better; and Build your capacity.
Build your network: Create support groups and networks of women; Find male allies; Support other women through teamwork; Be a team player; Find a mentor; and Be open to sound advice.
Be bold: Make your presence and your impact felt – especially if you are the only woman in the room; Take a seat at the table; Celebrate your wins; Motivate others; and Always keep a positive mindset.