By Martin K. N. Kollie
It really does not matter where you are, who you are, or what you have before making impact in society, but what matters is your selfless demonstration to ensure better condition for vulnerable people. There are many citizens today living in desperate conditions who are in need of help. We must go beyond words and act rapidly to intervene before it gets too late. All through my life, I have not seen any one group of people that are so vulnerable than women and girls.
According to history, women and girls have been mostly exposed to countless number of risks and dangers. In some quarters, they are usually seen as non-entities and immaterial characters simply because of their gender or sex. They are overlooked, marginalized, trafficked, and suppressed every other day around the world as a result of improper cultural practices, low self-esteem, poverty, economic inequality, and insufficient opportunities.
It is about time we begin to exhibit a strong sense of willingness to rescue all women and girls who are mostly abused and harassed by cruel elements. The need to protect the rights of girls and women is an unavoidable reality for any productive society. Women and girls are like precious jewels and if we intentionally fail to create the necessary opportunities for them, we hurt ourselves as a nation and harm our future as a people.
For too long women and girls have been seen as backyard gardeners, caregivers, babysitters, and domestic workers. How long will this continue to happen? How long will this perception live on? The days of the 15th century are no more and we must live in accordance with this time and age. What happened yesterday must not be allowed to happen today. The world must understand that we are in the 21st century.
A century where girls and women rights are supposed to be fully protected under international legal instruments. A century that prohibits discrimination, degradation, and segregation against women and girls. A century that disallows rape, genital mutilation, sexual harassment, trafficking, and all forms of abuses against women and girls. A century that promotes gender equity, socio-economic equality, and political inclusion. A century that guarantees the fundamental rights of all human beings regardless of gender, age, status, religion, and nationality.
We are talking about the 21st century and not those primitive years when women and girls were subjected to modern slavery and all forms of inhumane treatments. The time for women and girls to take charge of their own destiny is now. Women and girls must work towards reclaiming a different hope for a better tomorrow. It may seem impossible to some of them, but it is not unachievable if they truly believe in themselves and their potentials.
I am one of those who strongly believe that women and girls can bring down mountains and transcend valleys. I am one of those who believe that women and girls can perform even better than their male counterparts. I am one of those who believe that women and girls can make the difference by providing great leadership in this age and time. It makes no sense for anyone to underestimate the unparallel abilities of women and girls.
The endless contribution of women and girls around the world is not only esteemed, but extraordinary. If this assertion is an unarguable reality, then why must we continue to abuse women and girls? Why must we continue to deny women and girls from accessing equal opportunities? I thought gender equality is the cornerstone for mutual existence. I thought justice is the basis for global peace and genuine development. If this is true, state actors must begin to invest more resources in women empowerment and girls’ education. The time to empower all women is now.
There is no developed nation that has succeeded without the full participation of women and girls. The United States of America is the world’s superpower today because of the immense contribution of women and girls yesterday and even now. We must not continue to ignore the impact women and girls are making around us. They are shapers of global modernization, transformers of civilization, shakers of politics, and trendsetters of economic growth.
The role of women and girls in society is essential to development. Empowering women and educating girls accrue opportunities for families, communities, and society in general. The days of considering women and girls as babysitters and house wives are over. The days of viewing women and girls as secondary creatures are over. Those days are no more, because the chain of self-pity and lowliness has been broken. For those of you who still hold to the traditional belief that women and girls are inferior beings, you must be existing on a different planet because your mentality is dead wrong.
Our society must now realize the fact that we can no longer go back to those ancient times where women and girls were seen as nothing and were always left at the back for men to take the lead. Women and girls are taking the lead now through actions. Women and girls were not made to always be at the back. They are not followers, but leaders!! They are not second in motion, but first in motion. The power women and girls have must not be devalued today and even tomorrow.
The qualities most women and girls possess are unimaginable. Some of them have exceptional talents even more than their male counterparts. Their contribution to national economic development has been and continues to be crucial. Brigham Young was right when he said “when you education a woman, you education an entire generation”. In addition, Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard University President was also very farsighted in his assertion that “Educating girls may be the single highest return investment available in the developing world. These statements surely strengthen the need for governments around the world to build the human resource capacity of young girls and women.
We believe that girls’ education and women empowerment are the best weapons to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and economic disparity. With these two powerful weapons, Liberia and the world at large can become a better place where peace and security can prevail forever. When women and girls are empowered and educated, the society makes unhindered progress in terms of genuine development and inclusive socio-economic growth. We express this as a caution to those of you, young women and girls to now embrace the present and do away with the past. Women and girls must begin to see themselves as potential presidents, ministers, commissioners, ambassadors, judges, engineers, pilots, prelates, economists, lawmakers, superintendents, etc. The power is in their hands to invest more time to hard work in order to become who they want to become.
Women empowerment promotes gender equity and equality and girls’ education breeds great female leaders who are borderless in their words, thoughts, and deeds. The world today especially Africa is hungry for great leaders. Liberia for example is suffering from serious leadership deficit. The gap is too wide to an extent that vast majority of the citizens are losing hope and confidence to embrace a new future.
We cannot continue to preach the gospel of gender equity and equality through words and rhetoric. It comes with policy measures and implementation. There is no development without girls’ education and women empowerment. Women and Girls deserve equal opportunities like boys and men because they are tax-paying citizens as well. The days of prioritizing men over women must come to an end. The days of giving more opportunities to boys and forgetting about girls must cease to exist. Women and girls are not statutes, but strategists. They too deserve better living condition and social upliftment.
Women and girls must be given a friendly space to compete with their male counterparts. If this is done, Liberia will regain its rightful status among comity of nations. Until we can understand that women and girls have extraordinary abilities to make positive impact in society, our nation stands to risk its destiny. Have we forgotten about great women and feminists around the world whose legacy is unmatched even today? It is our obligation to always remember the priceless contribution of Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Maggie Andrew Thatcher, Rosa Park, Queen Victoria, and many other feminists who changed the world. Certainly, the mark of these women on mankind will always be cherished even beyond this generation.
The role of women and young girls in leadership is critical to the forward march of any nation. It has been proven around the world that women can provide better leadership even more than men if they are empowered and educated. Women too have the right like men to become whatever they want to become! In fact, there are female scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, and politicians who are even making meaningful impact than most men. If this is a fact, then why must we continue to overlook them?
The government of Liberia and all governments around the world must take genuine steps to ensure the fullest participation of women in leadership. It does not make sense to have less than 30% women representation in our governance structure. This is the highest form of injustice any one groups of gender can endure. Women and Girls themselves have a responsibility to work very hard in order to turn this ancient story around. The road to achieving this target may seem rocky, but it takes the collective energy and courage of all State actors especially women to realize this milestone. We are getting there gradually and nothing should shift our determination!!
Policy-makers need to create a conducive environment for women and girls to compete with their male counterparts. This can only happen if girls’ education is seriously prioritized and more resources are invested to empower women. The campaign to transform the socio-economic statuses of women and girls cannot be overstated. If this generation fails to act now, future of generations to come will be jeopardized.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, student leader, an emerging economist, and a young writer. He is currently a student at the University of Liberia reading Economics and a member of the Student Unification Party (SUP).