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Women leadership and Traditional practices

Saturday, March 11, 2017 - 16:44

The first female Town Chief of Yangayah Town, Gbarma district, Gbarpolu County. Ma Zoe is a girls’ education advocate and a member of the Mother’s club in Yangayah town established by ActionAid in 2008. Despite not having attained primary education, Ma. Zoe was able to learn about women rights. She says,

I learnt a lot on women’s rights trainings provided by ActionAid; the knowledge I have now, makes me to stay focused in making change for my fellow women in Gbarpolu County”.

Her exposure in her to women rights became a stepping stone to help her family and community at large. This saw her taking lead to combat and prevent the further spread of the deadly Ebola virus that claimed many lives in 2014 across the country. She also advocated for many girls to access education.  She supported awareness on sexual and gender based violence, engaging many women and men in Gbarpolu County. 

In 2015, she was nominated by the community’s women in the town to serve as a town chief following the dismissal of her male predecessor for abuse of office. She had two male deputies and served successfully throughout 2015.  

However, through traditional laws and practices, Ma Zoe was removed from office in December 2016. Her male colleagues pressed that traditional laws do not bars a woman from leading them given the venue of meetings.

“When a person becomes a chief, they are supposed to attend all the traditional society meetings organize and led by the men. It is a taboo for a woman to enter in the men traditional society but the men can enter the female’s traditional bush where FGM is performed every time. The chief is to attend these meetings to sustain power”.

This implied that Ma Zoe could not qualify for the position of a chief by virtue of her being female! With this law considered, Ma Zoe’s term of office was suspended.

Despite systemic challenges in her journey of leadership, Ma. Zoe still holds a strong passion to influence change in her community.

“My passion to develop my own County will never be stopped by town chief position, I will do my best to continue to use my knowledge and skills to help my fellow citizens despite these temporary challenges Ma Zoe in her closing remarks after the removal meeting by the Yangayah male leaders.

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ActionAid Liberia together with Domafeign (partner organisation) has started interventions supporting the community to redress the issue at a human rights level to save the lives of many oppressed by the system which favours some and leaves others.