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Advancing women land rights, Agriculture for Education

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 01:56

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Marie Clark, 28 years old, is a member of Rural Women in Gbarpolu County. The Rural Women Movement was established through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. The movement has chapters across the 15 counties in Liberia.

In October 2016, Marie was chosen to be the ambassador of Liberian Women to go to Tanzania to participate in the Kilimanjaro Initiative. Kilimanjaro initiative is a campaign to claim African women’s rights to access and control over land and natural resources. The initiative sought to mobilize rural women from across Africa towards an iconic moment at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro, culminating in a symbolic ascent of the mountain by a delegation of women to proclaim a charter of principles and demands on women’s access to and control over their land. Liberia operates a dual legal system – statutory and customary laws. Rural women are often subjected to the customary laws and traditional practices which limit women access, ownership and tenure of land. Gaps in land rights laws, lack of information and poor implementation also enable this marginalization of women land rights. In rural communities, women depend on land for their agricultural activities, subsistence and income to support their families including sending their children to school.

An assembly of 400 rural women from 21 countries across Africa gathered at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise awareness and demand for their land rights. Thirty-two women climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Clark was among those who successful climbed the mountain, representing Liberian women’s demand for land rights. 

 “It was not easy journey to go up and come down the mountain; seeing older women with the zeal to campaign for our land rights inspired me. I felt encouraged and gained confidence to stand and fight for women in my country”, narrates Marie Clark.

Since then, Marie has actively engaged Ministries of Gender and Land, Mines and Energy to support women land rights movement. More recently, she also met with the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, during the International Women’s Day Celebration on March 7, 2017. 

 “I met with The President at the colloquium and relayed my request of land space, she gave me agriculture scholarship. Upon completing my studies I will come back and join the women and practice sustainable agriculture. I will capacitate other women through the knowledge I would have acquired from my studies.”

Marie has started a program for girls who drop out of high school, Agriculture 4 Education initiative.  The idea is to use harvest from the agriculture produce to raise income to support high school dropouts who are members of the initiative.

My hope is to see free Liberian Women who are able to own land and produce the food for the nation. I envision seeing independent women of Liberia owning land and the world to recognize us as women.  My sincere appreciation goes to ActionAid Liberia for support to enable me to be the ambassador for my fellow Liberian women. I give thanks to Her Honourable President  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the opportunity she has given to capacitate me more on agricultural studies, I also give thanks to the Minister of gender for the support they have given this far and Land and mines ministry for listening to our petition as women to access the land”.

Marie is engaging the ministries concerned to obtain land for her initiative. In August 2017, she will be starting her studies in Agriculture at the University of Liberia in Monrovia.