Source: The News
The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a passionate, non-profit and voluntary youth-led development organization that is primarily a self-sponsored institution since its inception in 2007 has launched its project named and styled 'Enhancing Women's Participation in Leadership and Governance' in the Borough of New Kru Town on the campus of D-Tweh Public School.

The project was designed as a result of an advanced International Training Programme received by Mr. Stephen B. Lavalah, Founder/Executive Director of YES in Stockholm, Sweden on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security which was jointly organized by Indevelop and Kvinna till Kvinna with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency.

The project aims to engage, educate and empower women to develop leadership skills, strategic planning and communication techniques as well as support women's participation at all levels of decision making and governance. It also intends to help break the cultural, traditional and religious barriers against women achieving their full potential and measure of happiness.

The project launch brought together cross section of marketers from Logan Town, Popo Beach, Duala and Saint Paul Bridge markets as well as residents from various communities in the Borough of New Kru Town and even beyond. Besides, a lot of dignitaries rose to the occasion including a representative from the European Union Delegation to Liberia, IBIS Liberia among other proxies coupled with some alumni and alumnae of the International Training Programme.

Speaking during the program, YES' Founder/Executive Director revealed that the project hopes to increased women's participation in leadership and governance and ensures the involvement of women at all levels of decision making. He stated that the project intends to inform, inspire and involve women to become more cohesive, responsive and knowledgeable about civic engagement, leadership and governance.

The Founder/Executive Director of YES further disclosed financial empowerment of women in the informal sector through the provision of financial services as another component of the project. "Nowadays, many market women are responsible for the survival of most household in Liberia, they are responsible school fees, medical bills, daily meals, children's clothing and house rents among other basic needs, so several market women faced enormous challenges and all too often do not even want to engage into leadership and governance activities" Mr. Lavalah said.

He stressed the need for women in the informal sector to have access to financial services so as to create an enabling environment of them to make informed political decisions, become self-confidence with independent judgment and acquire the necessary skills require to aspire for, attain and perform in elected positions.

Stephen asserted that in spite of making a significant milestone in 2005 by democratically electing the very first female president on the African continent as President of Liberia, on the other hand, all is not rosy for Liberian women as many societal vices continue to hinder their quest for gender equality, equity balanced, mainstreaming, and sensitive.

The youth leader divulged the project has not received funding from any source yet, but it was launched through voluntary contribution from officials and volunteers of YES. He used the occasion to call on donors, humanitarian organizations and benevolent individuals to support the project in order for the overall objectives and goals to be actualized.

Making remarks on behalf of the European Union Delegation to Liberia, Mr. Carlos Battaglini, Natural Resources and Civil Society Programme Manager, expressed thanks and appreciation to YES for such awesome initiative undertaking without external support. "I am grateful to the Youth Exploring Solutions and its executive director for many the projects they have initiated without donors' funding" he stated.

Mr. Battaglini lauded Liberian women for their pivotal roles in resolving years of intermittent conflict that destroyed many lives and properties. He praised Liberians for being exemplifiers of women's leadership and governance through the election of Africa's first female president. He further commended Liberian women for producing two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The Natural Resources and Civil Society Programme Manager pledged the European Union unending support to gender equality and commitment to working with Liberia's civil society organizations to ensure to equal opportunity for women and girls and enhance the protection and promotion of women's rights.

For her part, Madam Jackie Eastman who is the Partnership Facilitator for IBIS Governance in Liberia thanked YES for organizing the event with huge turnout of women and as well assured the gathering of IBIS in Liberia steadfastness to promote gender equality and sensitive learning as well as ensure the provision of quality education for girls through the eradication of traditional beliefs, sexual violence and exploitation.

Also speaking an alumna of the International Training Programme, Cllr Felicia Coleman, Chief Prosecutor, Sexual Gender Based Violence Unit of the Ministry of Justice expressed gratitude to YES and pledged her unrelenting support to safeguarding the rights of every woman despite ethnicity, culture, creed and status. Cllr. Coleman urged women to begin to aspire for elected positions and avoid the old-fashioned tradition and stereotype of being in the kitchen and taking care of other domestic needs.

Meanwhile, Ms. Grace Vaye, Chief of Maritime Operations and Safety who also spoke at the program stressed need to get women involve in leadership and governance. She lamented decrease in women's representation in the Liberian Parliament and recounted statistics from the Inter -Parliamentary Union that indicate women currently represent 11.65% in the Liberian Parliament which is ranked 114th out of 189 countries in gender representation, down from 92nd in 2005 when women represented 14% of Parliament. Ms. Vaye inspired women not to see themselves as weak and empty vessels, but to become the best in whatsoever undertake most especially political leadership.

At the close of the program, Madam Musu Carneh Jubor, Chairlady of the Women Association conveyed appreciation to YES and called on the individuals, institutions and government to support the project and empower the women of the Borough of New Kru and Liberia so as to enable them make informed political decision for the common good of all.

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