The role of women in the mining community of Kilepo Kanweaken, one of the most violent areas in the Southeast of Liberia, has risen dramatically thanks to the work of ActionAid.
The Access to Justice Programme is in the middle of its three-year operation with a positive impact already being seen and the domestic abuse and rape of women becoming increasingly less common.
There are now more female leaders, Town Chiefs, General Town Chiefs and aspiring Clan Chiefs, and women in rural areas are becoming increasingly vocal on claiming their rights as women.
Men have started to take on more active roles in the advancement of women’s position in society. The project has been so successful that it has recently taken on a new community to work with, Geeken in River Gee.
Agnes Wesseh, a 26 year old mother of four, is a STAR circle facilitator in Kilepo Kanweaken. Until her involvement in the STAR circle established by ActionAid through SEWODA, Agnes suffered persistent abuse from her husband.
Agnes explains: “Before I was not free in my home. My husband possessed everything and abandoned our children leaving me to care for them alone. From this ActionAid training I feel within myself that, yes indeed, I have power and he himself now knows that I am also human like him.
“We all have the same equal rights. I think my life is getting better. Today, I really feel fine because there are changes now in my home. I have power too. My husband no longer has exclusive right and control over our money. He does not beat on me anymore. He used to beat on me unmercifully but now never rapes me even when I feel tired and do not like to have sex.
This time around we live peacefully in our home. Sometimes if I realize that I wronged him, I apologize to him. Community members consider me as a role model and always invite me to help settle disputes.
Arthur Butler Jr. AJW Project Manager has his own memories of meeting Agnes.
“When we met her she was almost despondent, downhearted. I remember under the palaver hut, she was the only female that came around but she was not even fully participating because the meeting was comprised of men.
“She came and stood outside the palaver hut almost like just coming to peep, listening, like she was not called. Now Agnes is one of the most respected people in the community. There is no meeting that will be called in the community without Agnes speaking. She can be the first to open the floor. She is one of our most dependable STAR facilitators now.
With the women that she’s helping, they are seeing her example and so they too are coming out to speak out on issues
“Men have put a stop to beating on their women. Rape used to be too much in our community but it does not happen again like before. Women in the community feel safe and happy. Women are now involved in decision-making and girls who once felt too old to go to school are now trying to get an education,” according to Annie Teh, a STAR member in Kilepo Kanweaken.
ActionAid hopes that the effect it’s had so far will be taken even further and that the women of the Southeast will claim their rightful place in their communities.