Examining the Liberian Family System and the Implications for Nation Building



By: Emmanuel Dolo, Ph. D.


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 4, 2015

                  



 
 
 
 

Historical and cultural factors, principally the civil war, exacerbated rural to urban migration and chronic poverty (structural impediments, limited opportunities, long-term joblessness, deprivation of basic needs – food, shelter, security combined with grief and loss sustained for prolonged periods), which in turn, have negatively shaped the functioning of the contemporary Liberian family system. However, very little has been written in the academic and/or popular press concerning the Liberian family. The minimal writings on the topic direct their efforts at propagating faith-based views on teenage promiscuity and pregnancy. An exception is a popular press article that this author wrote in 2008 entitled: “The Liberian Family in Peril…” It argued that the national debate on family policy is sparse, although the family system is critical to rebuilding the essential components of the failed state. It acknowledged that Liberian families are diverse more than they are homogenous, noting that the distinctions arise out of their multiethnic and multicultural backgrounds. It provided some of the basic challenges that the post-war Liberian family was facing and highlighted the resilience of the family system. This article builds on that analysis.   

Are there some striking differences between the pre-war and post-war Liberian family systems and structures? Did the civil conflict have negative influences on the timing of family formation? Is the existing socioeconomic context influencing the stability of marriages, the flexibility of gender roles, patterns of parental involvement in child care/development, the volatility of household composition, and the cultural resources that families have available to overcome misfortunes? If the formation of a household does not originate in marriage, but the birth of a child, and many Liberian children are being born when the mother is not married to the biological father, what are the implications for the future of the society? If children born outside of wedlock face decreasing prospects academically, socially, and in life, and single and/or absent parenthood is on a rise, what does that mean for the future of Liberia? If all these form the demographic portrait of the Liberian family system, what picture does it paint of the nation’s future? 

The distinctive feature of the longstanding Liberian family structure is well known. Most people reside in close-knit extended families. An extended family consists at parents, grandparents, children cousins and more. In some traditions, ancestors are included, noted for their spiritual guidance. Put another way, strong marriages (bi-sexual relationships) and commitment to one’s extended kin have been central features of the Liberian family system. This family system, some observers assert, remained the dominant structure until the civil conflict dislodged and destabilized the society. Others argue that the deterioration of the Liberian family started long before the war. Despite when it started, during trying times, the extended family system has always served as a means of coping with hardship and instability. The focus of some observers on the pathology and disorganization of the Liberian family system ignores its enormous resilience against insurmountable odds, especially the strength of extended kin ties that has tended to stabilize the family in difficult events. Compared to previous other Liberians before them, this generation has undergone unresolved collective grief, loss, and psychological distress, even trauma caused by war and the Ebola outbreak. The resilience showed in the face of such devastation cannot be overstated.

It is worth mentioning, is the fact that there is lack of adequate data to trace long-term national trends in the Liberian family structure. There are limited or no established family sociologists, anthropologists, demographers, social scientists and/or historians steep in context-specific empirical evidence about the subject. Sometimes single moments in time observations are made by practitioners without empirical evidence or comparative value. It has been difficult to determine, if the communities on which such observations are based are representative of the larger population. The census could be used for this purpose, but that too might be incomplete due to challenges associated with the existing data. It would require imposing a consistent set of definitions and codes on the data, establishing an order and maximizing the potential for valid and reliable analysis for long-term change. Until now, no national study has been done to provide such an evidence. Why has time been spent on what seem a purely academic matter? The answer is simple – there are both ordinary citizens and academic who read these articles and send comments on their merits.

In essence, changes that the family system is undergoing serve as important gauges for understanding the future or life course of the society. The tap roots of all our national problems reside within the family. The erosion of the family system is having corrosive effects on all aspects of our lives. And until that is attended to, the challenges will continue to fester and grow. The census’ definition of the basic unit of enumeration is the household, and truly that has changed in Liberia over time, although we are unable to pinpoint the nature of that alteration precisely. Heads of household, their marital status, age, and gender have in some ways changed over time from the 1950s and 1960s when the current generation leading the nation were reaching maturity. During this period, the primary family structure was married couple households, sometimes polygamous, coupled with the presence of many relatives residing in the home. But over time, we have seen the growth of fragmentary households – single parents residing with their children, although there have been cases where extended households, including additional kin, such as grandparents and grandchildren of the household head have been present, including the occasional presence of children-in-law of the household head. Furthermore, another noticeable change in the emerging family system is that the overwhelmingly male-headed nuclear structure is being replaced by rising levels of female-headed households. The size of female and single person-headed and unstable households are increasing. 
 
These striking changes in the feature of the Liberian family structure have implications for where the society is going. This is not to suggest that in any society household composition must be static. But the living arrangement of the family can be linked to the dominant socioeconomic values of each society at a given point in time. This then brings one to the fact that there is also a growing number of Liberian children who do not reside with their parents. The growth of single and/or absent parenthood in Liberian society might mean that the foundational elements of the nation are shifting. If the numbers of children residing with their parents are decreasing, this change could mean that the next generation of Liberians might have missed out on some important value transfer in their upbringing. Parental absence is said to be directly, although not exclusively, a producer of delinquency and many other psychosocial ills. Parental death during the civil war was on a rise, and the Ebola outbreak also increased the numbers of orphans, many underage, and without any identifiable caregiver due to stigma and discrimination against Ebola survivors. Worse, today, co-residence of elderly people with kin has apparently declined and this too may have increased the adverse impact of parental absence for parentless children and youth.   

What are the implications of these changes for the Liberian post-war society? The first place to start is to suggest that the conditions of extreme poverty, high female participation in the labor force, howbeit small, compared to their male counterparts, inadequate employment opportunities for some males, largely young adults, and narrow wage differentials between men and women are factors that have encouraged marital instability within the Liberian society in addition to the effects of the civil conflict. True, we cannot test these claims causally because fine-tune economic data is not readily available to measure the effects of economic factors on the family system. But from social science observation, one can conclude that single parenthood and parental absence are associated with endemic poverty and its social consequences. Put another way, single parenthood and parental absence also cause or deepen the roots of poverty. If one were to add high levels of illiteracy and residence in the remote and rural parts of the country on the conditions of affected populations, the higher the odds would become.
At this juncture, it is worth asking some important questions. Have the ideological preferences of young men and women changed toward marriage, which may explain the appearance of increased single parenthood? Is the increase in the number of Liberian women entering higher education and the workforce also responsible for the undesirability of marriage at an early age? Are married Liberians staying together longer or is there an increase in the rate of divorce? Is there a downward spiral in the Liberian family unit retaining the important parental functions of caring for, socializing, and nurturing dependent children? As adverse events occur in the lives of kin, what is the nature of the extended family in reinforcing and maintaining the connective and strong supportive linkages among family members that were once the norm? What is the role of the government (public policy) and civil society (practical interventions) in addressing these questions? If all the challenges facing the nation converge in one place, it is within the family system. The inability of Liberian society as a whole (government, civil society, individuals, and the collective unit) to understand the multiple pathways and risk factors that have caused erosion and even dysfunction of the Liberian family system would only harden the uncompetitive nature of the society. Unfortunately, the rising economic hardships, the quite caustic social norms, and the absence of proactive national interventions have made the environment less hospitable to building strong and stable families.

The results of this analysis hopefully, assists in removing some of the ambiguities regarding the direction family policy in Liberia should take now and in the future. No society achieves its social development aspirations, if the systems and structures for successfully raising the next generation of leaders are persistently and severely distressed. It is true that teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, rape, reduced parental responsibility for child support, child abuse/neglect, and number of children being reared by parents that are stuck in poverty have not abated significantly in this era. Only when sustainable efforts are mounted with targeted pro-poor socioeconomic interventions would the Liberian family system and structure break from its entrapment in these vicious pathologies. For this to happen, society must forge social policies that holistically and in an integrated way address the nexus of the following through a family-centered approach:

Hopefully, professionals working in the social work, mental health, youth development, healthcare, and justice sectors can together adapt evidence-based practice by applying Liberian-specific intervention strategies and community supports that validate the grief and loss associated with historical traumas, which Liberian families have suffered from past shattering events. If anything, the state should build an integrated strategy for rebuilding and strengthening the communal family. Of note, there is no naïve assumption that the government is the “messiah” to solve all the Liberian family system challenges. It will take collective efforts at all levels of society: government, civil society, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations and more.   


The Author: Emmanuel Dolo is the President and CEO of the Center for Liberia’s Future, an independent think tank in Duazon, Liberia. 

Matilda Witherdpoon
On the contrary, Mr.Dolo, "the tap root of our national problems" DOES NOT "reside in the family" as you wrongly believe! "The tap root of our national problems" resides IN THAT SEGMENT OF OUR SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS - THE GOVERMENT IN CHARGE OF POWER AND POLITICS-THE NUCLEUS OR COMPASS OF ANY SOCIETY'S SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS!

When a society is governed by irresponsible and heartless people that society is bound to suffer such national problems as ours, no matter what amount of efforts made by the family simply a powerless and most struggling segment of its fellow social institutional counterparts!

This idea of you and your likes furtively trying to shift the blame from those in charge of the most strategic segment of the social institutions IS TOTALLY WRONG! Within any given nation, without THE POLITICAL WILL of those in power, the society is doomed! THIS GOVERNMENT IS "IS THE TAP ROOT OF OUR NATIONAL PROBLEMS! AND YOU KNOW IT!
Matilda Witherdpoon at 03:31PM, 2016/02/04.
Emmanuel Dolo
Dear Matilda,

Thank you for comments. The article is replete with areas where the government's culpability is highlighted throughout the article. However, the can be no way that government alone can take the full responsibility for teen pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, runaway fatherhood or motherhood, school dropout, etc. Where is the parental and communal responsibility?

We in society have to take some, not all, responsibility for our actions for the problems that we face collectively to be solved. This is not to say that your points are not well-taken. I definitely respect your views. This is the kind of dialogue that I want my articles to generate.

Good Day,

Emmanuel
Emmanuel Dolo at 12:17AM, 2016/02/05.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Dear Emmanuel,

Life, as in politics, or as in the rule of law, is to identify the problem and get rid of the problem by DIRECTLY CONFRONTING THE PROBLEM!

You are saying your "article is replete with government's culpability". We do not see your mention of such culpability, probably because such mention is or are highly tacit; and Emmanuel, in this context, tacitity may not be as heloful as our national problems needs!

Hence, we suggest that taking into account this context in which the war war was senseless and simply planned and waged by politicians (ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF AND HER CABAL)a small group of people or gang not responsible to the people(AUTHORITARIANISM) we SHOULD BE TACTLESS AND DIRECTLY CRITICAL LIKE ALBERT PORTE!

That said, Mr. Dolo, we disagree with you that "the tap root of our problems is the family or the source of our national problems"WHEN OUR SOCIETY STILL BELIEVES IN OUR TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE AND FAMILY CULTURAL VALUES AS OPPOSED TO THE REVERSE IN WHICH SODOMY, TALKING BACK TO PARENTS, POLYYANDRY ETC.

The "tap root of our national problems" is the failure of those in power to live up to what they agreed upon viz THE SOCIAL CONTRACT on the one hand, and on the other hand, some within the intelligentsia covering up for a cabal which careless about the people or family values!
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 02:36AM, 2016/02/05.
Emmanuel Dolo
Dear Kandajaba,

Thank you for your observations. I am sorry to disappoint you that I write like an academic and do not need to politicize what I write. My goal is to identify a problem and propose empirically-feasible solutions and invite a dialogue with others on the subject. That you have engaged me in a constructive debate is healthy. Let me site where I noted the government's culpability.

"What are the implications of these changes for the Liberian post-war society? The first place to start is to suggest that the conditions of extreme poverty, high female participation in the labor force, howbeit small, compared to their male counterparts, inadequate employment opportunities for some males, largely young adults, and narrow wage differentials between men and women are factors that have encouraged marital instability within the Liberian society in addition to the effects of the civil conflict. True, we cannot test these claims causally because fine-tune economic data is not readily available to measure the effects of economic factors on the family system. But from social science observation, one can conclude that single parenthood and parental absence are associated with endemic poverty and its social consequences. Put another way, single parenthood and parental absence also cause or deepen the roots of poverty. If one were to add high levels of illiteracy and residence in the remote and rural parts of the country on the conditions of affected populations, the higher the odds would become."

In addition, see the quotes below from the article. The onus for solving the problem is shared, with greater portion of executing the recommendations falling on the government.


"The results of this analysis hopefully, assists in removing some of the ambiguities regarding the direction family policy in Liberia should take now and in the future. No society achieves its social development aspirations, if the systems and structures for successfully raising the next generation of leaders are persistently and severely distressed. It is true that teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, rape, reduced parental responsibility for child support, child abuse/neglect, and number of children being reared by parents that are stuck in poverty have not abated significantly in this era. Only when sustainable efforts are mounted with targeted pro-poor socioeconomic interventions would the Liberian family system and structure break from its entrapment in these vicious pathologies. For this to happen, society must forge social policies that holistically and in an integrated way address the nexus of the following through a family-centered approach:
•economic deprivation (pro-poor community-based jobs)
•high crime rates and alienation in many low income neighborhoods (community policing)
•uncompetitive education system (targeted community-based school networks)
•increased levels of juvenile delinquency (community-based work skills-development initiatives)
•the escalating rates of street children’s needs (street children removal/diversion programs alongside after school programs and durable mental health/social services), and
•simultaneous reduction of risks and increase in protective factors for vulnerable children (early identification, academic, life skills development, and counseling programs).

Hopefully, professionals working in the social work, mental health, youth development, healthcare, and justice sectors can together adapt evidence-based practice by applying Liberian-specific intervention strategies and community supports that validate the grief and loss associated with historical traumas, which Liberian families have suffered from past shattering events. If anything, the state should build an integrated strategy for rebuilding and strengthening the communal family. Of note, there is no naïve assumption that the government is the “messiah” to solve all the Liberian family system challenges. It will take collective efforts at all levels of society: government, civil society, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations and more."


Best,

Emmanuel
Emmanuel Dolo at 03:53AM, 2016/02/05.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Dear Emmanuel,

You have not "disappointed" me by writing as an academic -whatever to you "writing as sn academic" may mean; since of course, you are not writing in a textbook format or style.

Rather, you "disappoint" us when you claim you "do not need to poliyicize your writing" when the truth is that MOST of your writings have been "politicized" by you prior to your employment in government - a now, then employmemt which can be said to have birthed your non-harsh critical stance against goverment and its cronies or etstwhile allies. In such writings you are so blunt telling them that "they shall suffer a rude awakening"! I have such writings of yours here with me!

So you see Emmanuel, where you disappoint me is not when you "write as an academic" for it is your natural and legal right to such freedom of choice! Rather, you "disappoint" us when you claim been blunt is "politicizing" and your taboo - a claim far from the truth!
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 06:09AM, 2016/02/05.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Dear Emmanuel,

IS THIS HOW YOU "WRITE AS AN ACADEMIC AND YOU ARE NOT POLITICIZING WHAT YOU WRITE"?



The Cost of Sirleaf’s Failure: Launching Pad for Anti-Democratic Forces



By: Emmanuel Dolo, Ph. D.




















The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 23, 2007



















The Sirleaf government’s policy is apparently simple: provide tangible rewards for political cronies; secure their jobs; and blame others for the moral failures of powerful social and political allies. Simply, fear of being ostracized by her wealthy friends have led President Sirleaf to retreat from her commitment to Liberian girls and women, and perhaps, all those in Liberian society who find themselves in disadvantaged conditions. Former child soldiers and those who are suffering traumatic after effects of the war, needing mental health and other psychosocial services may not be far behind in what is turning out to be a cascade of neglect for those cut up in the pervasive cycle of poverty. Is this because women and poor people are not viewed as strong constituencies with the kind of leverage to undo President Sirleaf’s legacy? Perhaps, women will just support the President blindly because she is a woman. This might just be an erroneous belief.
A woman president evoked new ways of doing public service: equity and justice for all, especially women – the downtrodden classes, improved conditions for boys and girls who were forced to participate in or experience communal violence – rape and orgies. It was thought that the Sirleaf administration would create and foster a comprehensive framework to achieve equitable access to school and opportunities of all kinds, for girls and women, who have for so long experienced disinvestments in their lives and future.

Rather than unfolding uniformed and connected sets of strategies for sustainable social change, that would cater to populations and sectors of the society that suffered disinvestments in the past, the values of the Sirleaf government are manifesting a contrary sign. Her governance strategy occurs through diverse processes that pivot around structural forces aimed at reinventing and maintaining the “old order.” Therefore, the burden for negative impacts of this old tradition that culminated into the civil war must partially be assumed by Liberians who have the power to speak out against these practices, but have remained silent, because her presidency is a convenient wave for them to ride to personal aggrandizement.

No one will deny that the legacies of past Liberian presidents: pandemic of inequality and corruption, coercion, and outright violations of people’s civil liberties are so appalling that they are hard to overcome in one year. No one will deny that President Sirleaf has amassed the Liberian state enormous amounts of goodwill and begun to redeem the nation from the throes of disrepute that her predecessor brought it. But all these will not mean anything at all, if they do not translate into bread and butter benefits and improved quality of life for the poor and dispossessed in Liberian society or that proceeds from the resurgence of goodwill for Liberia will not be leveled equitably across the society.

For some of us, we are construed as an opposition against well-funded political foes, who believe that it is to their benefit that conditions of old are brought back. We too must not relent in our efforts to influence outcomes that directly affect the lives of Liberians who cannot speak for themselves. Our advocacy is critical to achieving economic and social equity, particularly for Liberians living in poverty and squalor because their voices continue to be overlooked by this government. For example, with all the issues that have arisen against women in recent times, the Gender Ministry has remained completely silent. Public policy does not only determine how a government dispenses societal resources, but it explicitly expresses the values of that government. And I have already told you that the values of the Sirleaf government manifest in ways that only maintain the status quo ante.

Recent events involving two powerful men and less powerful women have shed harsh light on the Sirleaf administration’s lack of concern for or indifference to the well-being of Liberian girls and women. Now, more than ever, we need to shine the light on the venerable pattern of inequality and subjugation of poor people in Liberia. We cannot let the President use the cover of being the first woman president to pursue a course that will prove destructive not only for herself, but for nearly all Liberian people (educated and illiterate) who embrace a leadership paradigm and practice that professes belief in democratic governance. If Ellen Johnson Sirleaf fails in her presidency, the cost will be enormous for all well-meaning people who considered her the hope for change. And that is why those of us who believe in her must do everything possible not to sit idly by when she falters, but to remind her continuously of the enormous cost.

President Sirleaf apparently recognizes the cost of failure, and so she has developed a set of glossy coping mechanisms to repel accusations of not keeping her promises in the arena of protecting the lives of Liberian girls – writers who continue to argue that it is too soon to start criticizing the “old lady.” But every single time these individuals try to deflect constructive criticisms of the Sirleaf administration, they put a nail on the coffin of democracy, because they provide a weapon to anti-democratic forces, which are just waiting in the wings to tell us – “We told you so.”

Let’s assume that it has crossed some minds that selective prosecutions are occurring in Liberia and the beneficiaries are the President’s friends. Let’s assume that some people believe that lucrative government contracts are going to the President’s supporters, and there are no open and accountable systems for awarding government contracts. These might just be perceptions, but if they converge into a trend and patterns are formed, perceptions will soon become reality. That is why transparency and accountability are essential, and strategic options to increase the participation and impact of government policies on sources of past failures are critical. If President Sirleaf fails, it will be so easy for Liberians to make political decisions that demoralize their own interest, as they did when they supported Charles Taylor. And in my mind, it will take much longer for us to recover from the damage that will be done than it is taking for us to recover from the present crisis.

Recall that Charles Taylor and Doe before him, as well as several others, Tubman and Tolbert, tested the will of the Liberian people to respond to their cronyism. Liberians did at each interval, and the results were abysmal. All those Liberian elites who felt that they were exempt from the consequences of Tolbert, Doe, and Taylor’s failures, are here to attest and some are dead. If anything will dilute the desire of Liberians to support those Liberians who claim to be progressive and to have well-thought out solutions to Liberia’s problems, it will be the clear revelation that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf wants to bring back the “old order.” By now, those of us who advocate for social justice have learned all we need to know from opportunistic and repressive leaders. We know that their aim is not to change the rules and set new and inclusive standards of governance, but to put cloth over our eyes and continue the destructive patterns of old.

Those responsible for setting the agenda for governance in Liberia today would have to acknowledge that a cultural shift is taking place in almost all spheres of our lives. For the first time in the history of the nation, leaders have to do what no previous generation of their peers have had to do before: submit their political whims to the will and best interest of the citizens; be held accountable for their actions; but also, their journey is enhanced by the fact that they can hear the ideas of the citizens, if they wish.

The reason why Ellen Johnson Sirleaf must succeed is that her failure will be too costly. Ordinary Liberians, not members of the elite classes will lose faith in the ability and capacity of those of us who claim to be progressive in our political posture to protect their well being. In the end, we would have dug a hole so deep that no amount of politicking will dig us out of. No amount of careful planning by populists and anti-democratic forces against the Sirleaf government will deliver them favorable ratings in the eyes of the Liberian public than, if Mrs. Sirleaf herself sends the message that she only cares about the powerful and the well-connected.













© 2007 by The Perspective
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Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 10:28AM, 2016/02/05.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Here is another evidence, Emmanuel, proving your claim you "write as an academic and never politicize your writing"

IS THIS NOT POLITICIZING, AT LEAST ACCORDING TO YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF POLITICIZING WRITING IN THIS CONTEXT? OR IS BECAUSE YOU WANTED A PIECE OF THE CAKE AT THE TIME?



Turning a Blind-Eye to the Exploitation of Women? Why it Hurts Us All



By: Emmanuel Dolo, Ph. D.


















The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 22, 2007



















I write this article in response to what I have come to call the culture of impunity in Liberia. By impunity, I mean at no time has President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf taken real steps rather than symbolic ones to demonstrate strong stance against the exploitation of girls and women by her close male associates, be it allegations of sexual act with a minor against Representative Kett Murray or revelations of orgy-type sex acts between State and Presidential Affairs Minister, Willis Knuckles.
I also include responses to Mr. Theodore T. Hodges’ article entitled: Presidential Minister Willis Knuckles: Villain or Victim, in which he generally couches Mr. Knuckles as a victim essentially because his private indiscretions were brought into the open by people who allegedly tried to blackmail him. Mr. Hodge makes his case without acknowledging the basic issue of disproportionate power, prestige, and privilege adorned on Mr. Knuckles relative to the women in the photograph. More importantly, I focus this paper on the three related reasons why the tendency manifested here (letting a well-connected political giant get away with an even that could possibly cause a socially disconnected public servant their job), has negative implications for rebuilding our society.

I am not going to focus this article on Willis Knuckles’ action, because much have been said about this issue. Moreover, Mr. Knuckles has squandered the confidence that the President bestowed upon him, although commentators like Hodge have come to construe him as a probable “honorable man.” From the vantage point of restorative justice, and recognizing that all of our “feet are made of clay, and had it not been for the grace of God,” one of us could be the one in this very difficult position, the least the President can do would be to suspend Mr. Knuckles for an indefinite time period, ask him to seek professional help (counseling and/or spiritual self-reflection). When the President and Mr. Knuckles agree that the terms of the restoration are satisfied, he can either venture on to public service or private practice. Perhaps this intervention would also halt any desire on the part of Mr. Snowe and his supporters to continue to spread a hysteria that all their enemies are going to be targets of their vendetta. It is a moral lapse, and President Sirleaf cannot send the message that she condones this kind of practice.

But then again, the President’s actions also indicate that she is standing with Mr. Knuckles despite the heinous nature of his offense. Unlike his predecessor, Morris Dukuly, who saw it fit to claim culpability and resign during the “fire gate,” which engulfed the Executive Mansion, Knuckles is resting on his long-standing relationship with the President and arrogantly blaming everyone, while taking nominal responsibility for his actions.

There are three basic reasons why those in government and the entire nation must respond to the exploitation of girls and women with significant dismay and seek to prevent it from reoccurring, especially when it involves a perpetrator that has lopsided power than most in society including his victims. First, it corrects past and present wrongs: political, social, economic and cultural. Second, it allows us to cultivate a public workforce that affords public office the due regard. Third, there is a value added to all young people when they grow up in a society where people adhere to certain standards, like the one President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf set, when she said that her government will comprise of people who uphold the highest moral standards.

The first of these reasons – correcting past and present subordination and exploitation of women must regrettably be out of vogue today as it has been in the past. Instead, a new twist on old tricks is infecting our public spaces, leaving us to wonder, if change will ever come to our country; when it comes to how our little girls and women are treated as second class citizens. Sadly, there are those who do not see anything wrong with the silence coming out of the Executive Mansion because that is how our society has been and there is no room for all of us to improve. Can anything explain why Mr. Willis Knuckles will arrogantly tell Liberian people that he is not going to resign after vile pictures of his private indiscretions are made public and being sold on the streets of Monrovia and distributed every where in the world than an entrenched culture of impunity?

Those of us in the position to speak out without fear of losing our daily bread must not only recognize and acknowledge the inequities in power relationship between Mr. Knuckles and the females in the nude picture; we must condemn the silence coming from the President and those within her close circles. This issue requires more than neutrality, because neutrality means we are unwilling to erase the effects of long-term discrimination that women have suffered. Unless we act affirmatively and condemn what seems to be condoning these kinds of acts, we will never be able to achieve the equity goals that the President and her associates espouse. Achieving change in the culture of impunity requires us to stop all patterns that resemble past failings in their tracks.

The second reason why we must speak against this and other social ills is not only that women constitute a higher percentage of our population, but that our future development depends on their quality of life. Our competitiveness as a nation depends on women, if not more so, because of their majority status, then on the fact that they have suffered disproportionate shares of oppression in nearly all spheres of social development in our country. If women are not prepared for meaningful citizenship roles and careers and must remain subservient to their male counterparts, our country is doomed. The pluralistic global society in which we live is one where women in other countries are becoming increasingly competitive. Are we preparing Liberian girls to face such challenges or we are tailor making them to be our sex mates and only that? If the trend continues, we will not be able to participate fully in the global marketplace.

Liberia is on the cusp of monumental political and social change, not leaving behind economic changes that could catapult the nation to global competitiveness especially when our indebtedness to world nations are being dropped. It is clear that new entrants into our labor force will have to be a majority of the women exploited since childhood by a culture that disregards the needs of girls and women; that is, if we give them opportunities to match their male counterparts. If half of the jobs in the global marketplace will require more than a college education in the future and majority of Liberian women remain as the sex toys of powerful men, our country is doomed. Unless the participation rates of girls and women in schools and the labor force are boosted and their exploitation halted, no amount of talk about change is likely to translate into reality.

The challenge that we face is not just to stand against the exploitation of girls and women, but to prepare enough of them to be lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and independent people, so that they too can walk the corridors of power and hold men accountable. In so doing, we will create more women role models to stamp the tide of the likes of Willis Knuckles in Liberia and the world.

By letting these moments to go without President Sirleaf condemning these issues, there appears to be no serious effort on the part of the Sirleaf government to protect women who are being sexually exploited by male counterparts. It is easy to ride the wave of women’s support to increase her popularity, but when it comes to protecting women from predatory practices, the President seemingly stands with her male elite friends.

When Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, became the first female President of the Liberian state, many Liberians thought that the long history of women being exploited and subordinated by men, particularly those who have political power, wealth, and privilege; would come to an end. But it is now clear that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is just like the men that she replaced. She has been part of the male-dominated opposition movement for so long that the “iron lady posture” is not only symbolic, but a woman seeking in everyway to maintain the characteristics that made previous male leaders of the nation detested and ostracized. Female by gender, she used this garb to acquire power, but conditions have remained the same. The direct beneficiaries of her rule are her male confidants. Liberian women are mere “doormats” who must live at the whims and caprices of men. Their fate is sealed and they have no other recourse, but to resign to being used and abused. How come?

The argument that Theodore Hodge and others have made is that Mr. Willis Knuckles is a victim. His private matter was brought into the open supposedly by his political enemies, Edwin Snowe and Mardea White Snowe, including an unnamed female legislator. For this, he is a victim. The women, whom Mr. Hodge also described as victims were not mentioned in Mr. Knuckles’ apology in which he took minimal responsibility for his moral failings. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf promised the Liberian people that her government will comprise of people of the highest moral standing. She also promised to fight for “young girls raped, victimized, and exploited by sexual predators.” How would she accomplish this when her agenda is administered by one who used his top-heavy political power directly or indirectly to lure two females into a sexual act, consensual or coerced? No Liberian is a stranger to the fact that an assortment of decadent acts have gone on, and are going on in our government.

But there has to come a time when public officials stop and come to their senses. When will someone pay the price for poor judgment, which may border on abuse of power? The likes of Mr. Hodge would argue that the incident did not involve Mr. Knuckles’ staffers or people working for the government. We do not know that. We also do not know if these women can overcome the humiliation already heaped on them to reveal their identities. If one of the most powerful men in the country is the perpetrator, supported by the President of the Republic, where would they ever find refuge from the backlash that would be directed at them? The same reasons for which Liberian women have remained ostensibly mute on this subject: female legislators, judges, lawyers, pastors, writers, journalists, minister of gender, and the list goes on, is perhaps the same paralyzing fear that is keeping these women from revealing their identities.

As a Liberian whose proudest moments this week were the cancellation of our national debts, engineered by Mrs. Sirleaf, her endorsement of Mr. Knuckles’ lapses in judgment and the adverse message that it sends to Liberian girls and women, yield hurt and disappointment beyond measure. But more disappointing is that the ruling political party is willing to accept the notion that its government does not care about the young girls that are being exploited by powerful Liberian men and the office that citizens are expected to respect. Its failure to take a stand on this matter would be an issue in the next cycle of the presidential and legislative elections.

Opposition parties should ensure that whether it be Sirleaf or her successor – Unity Party must pay for its clear decision to support the status quo – the subordination of women; caring less about the effects of these kinds of acts on their well-being. Equally, people in the current government who have claimed the mantle for social justice, who do not speak out against this glaring disgrace that this matter has brought to bear on the government must also stand before the political seat of judgment when they decide to vie for public office in the future. This is no time for the kind of hypocrisy that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the ruling party played on Liberians, and are now repeating the same scandals that degraded women and made them the butt of men’s sexually predatory practices.

This decision by President Sirleaf may not stoke widespread public outburst, but there is no doubt that this is a huge taint on an important component of her legacy. Talk to Liberians, and they do not trust people in power because they believe that people in power are the repositories of vices that caused the 14 year of war. And Mrs. Sirleaf is showing that her commitment is not to cleaning up the mess, but maintaining the “good old boys network.” Many young Liberians, even matured ones, are not expecting justice because they know that the perpetrator is a friend of the President. Although Mr. Knuckles is a high government official who was caught red-handed in the most glaring way possible, he will never be punished. Instead, a systematic pattern of disregard for women will continue to operate under the presidency of a woman by men with impunity. What would our young people think and how will this go over in school halls and lunch rooms or on basketball courts and soccer fields?













© 2007 by The Perspective
E-mail: editor@theperspective.org
To Submit article for publication, go to the following URL: http://www.theperspective.org/submittingarticles.html

Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 10:34AM, 2016/02/05.
Emmanuel Dolo
Dear Sir,

I do not work for the Sirleaf administration anymore. I am the President and CEO of my own independent entity. When I worked for the government, I was never paid a salary from the government's purse throughout my service. I was paid by the same private employer that took me back to Liberia, and later by WHO. Hence, your claim of seeking a pie of some sort is wrongly placed. I am a professional whose credentials are competitive and marketable anywhere in the world.

That aside, to compare my writings from years back to the ones now to justify your argument that stance, which I took then politicized my writings and I am not doing that now is a mere issue of interpretation to which you are entitled.

Writing styles, especially those of academics are not static, they change over time. Moreover, the subjects about which I write now are different from what I wrote about then. You may be right that the tone of my writing has changed, probably even mellow.

It may not be as harsh as you want me to be. But I do not see a significant value in being harsh. I have worked in nearly all three sectors of society since returning home: non-governmental organizations (UNICEF), private sector (ArcelorMittal) and GOL. This span of the landscape provides you a basic perspective that is eye opening to which others who lack these experiences may not be privy.

Academic life or public life is a developmental process. No doubt, I have certainly grown in how I conceptualize issues, write about them, and the solutions that I proffer. Sadly, you have come to create a cookie cutter, a prism of sorts, in which you want me to fit, and I have disappointed you because I am not a parrot.

On matters of principle - integrity and values that I hold dear, I have maintained them throughout my service in the non-governmental, private, and public sectors. I take no back seat to anyone on protecting my reputation with extreme jealousy. Thank God, you have not mentioned that I stole or got involved in any form of illicit enrichment, the tart often used on people who have served in government. I can assure you that I am proud, extremely proud that I served my people, when they needed my skills most.

After government, I created an opportunity for myself that will provide jobs for many other skilled Liberians. I walked away from government in good stead with my employer and have absolutely no qualms saying that.

In closing, it would do you good to judge my ideas and contributions on the merit as opposed to whether or not it fits a prescribed tone. My present tone is that of a nearly 60 year old highly experienced professional who has served in high level positions and thus translated lessons learned into more age-appropriate ways of writing and engagement with others.

Best regards,

Emmanuel
Emmanuel Dolo at 05:21PM, 2016/02/05.
Emmanuel Dolo
Dear Kandajaba,

When I joined government, I was afforded an opportunity to effect the changes for which I had advocated and wrote about prior to that opportunity. I did so with distinction and received the nation's highest honor for civilian service and stewardship.

When you have a higher purpose in life, you do not join government and then get out and start to spew confidential information about that government to reactivate your advocacy credentials. The highest marks of professionalism are confidentiality and integrity. I am hinged to those values as core principles.

I am not in a fight with the government. I have access to government officials at the highest levels and can convey my sentiments about changes I want to see happen without resorting to writing caustic newspaper articles. Government officials to whom I reach out might not do what I recommend, but it does absolutely no good for me to write about these engagements in the media.

On this note, my articles in this post-public service part of my life are aimed at reaching the larger public, inviting ordinary citizens to offer their perspectives and to enlarge landscape of our transnational debate. This is why I established a think tank and sought private sector funding to support its works.

Now, as the head of this academic institution, when I write articles, I seek to provide enlightenment and to seek allies especially among ordinary citizens, although not excluding public officials, to make grassroots and upward changes. Previously, I wrote articles to engage public officials to whom I lacked access. I accomplished that aim successfully as you have attested by citing my articles as effective advocacy tools. Now, I write not for advocacy, but for knowledge building and spurring critical thought. Advocacy occurs as an unintended consequence of those articles.

Those who are firebrands in their 60s and 70s see life from a totally different vantage point than I do. I cannot see life the way I saw it when I was 30 and 40 years old. I have now built the credibility, integrity, and importantly, the enduring relationships locally and internationally that can be used to spur change in the corridors of power without writing caustic articles.

I build allies now and use those relationships to make systemic and systematic changes in the culture of society, realizing results, outcomes, and impacts that are widespread and more sustainable. I achieve minimal benefit on behalf of the issues for which I am passionate and want to see changed, if my approach is adversarial.

I should add a few persons who have now transitioned from advocates to policy makers or professionals, working within and outside government to pursue the changes for which they advocated. The likes of Amos Sawyer, Boima Fahnbulleh, Marcus Dahn, Blamo Nelson and others left the advocacy realm and assumed policy making or professional positions. They have not continued to challenge the decision makers in the public, but have come to do so in their respective roles. Some have written books and articles, but with a focus on harnessing both internal and external resources and capacities to attend to the complex and complicated national problems utilizing their rich experience and expertise, and most importantly, their inroads into the established power centers.

Do I agree with those whom I have named on all issues? Absolutely not. But we must all change our conditioning in accordance with how we can make the best contributions to change.

I close at where I started: people without higher purpose spend their lifetime in perpetual advocacy mode. I aim to make a difference as a professional and not as a lifelong fighter with governments. My best approach is to use the inner workings of government to achieve that purpose, although I know change may not happen 100 percent as a result. Fighting from outside is difficult and achieves intended goals minimally.

Best regards,

Emmanuel
Emmanuel Dolo at 12:19AM, 2016/02/06.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Dear Emmanuel,

YOUR LIABILITY IS NOT ABOUT "STYLE" "AGE" OR "TONE" ON YOUR PART. NOR IS IT ABOUT YOUR LIABILITY ABOUT YOUR THEN CRAVINGS FOR A "PIECE OF THE PIE". Your LIABILITY is about SHIFTING THE BLAME FROM THOSE YOU THEN RIGHTLY JUDGED GUILTY TO THOSE YOU THEN RIGHTLY JUDGED WERE/ARE THE VICTIMS! PERIOD!!!

Take for examples the two hereunder:
Tug on My Heart By: Emmanuel Dolo, Ph. D. May 2007 the perspective

"So too, have I been thinking about the powerful men and women that used their power ruthlessly to damn many Liberians to a disgraceful life of displacement and second class existence in continents from Western and Eastern Europe to Asia, Latin America to Africa and North America to the Arab world."
The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 8, 2007

(2) "The Sirleaf government’s policy is apparently simple: provide tangible rewards for political cronies; secure their jobs; and blame others for the moral failures of powerful social and political allies." Emmanuel Dolo May 2007 The Perspective Magazine

Now juxtapose items 1 and 2 above with this latest indictment of the Liberian family:

"The tap root of our national problems resides in the family." Emmanuel Dolo

We shall address other aspects of your response later.




























The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 8, 2007















Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 03:56AM, 2016/02/06.

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© 2016 by The Perspective
E-mail: editor@theperspective.org
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