By: Hamilton B. Greene
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) on Thursday, February 16 conducted a one-day Gender training for its staff and members of its University Integrity Club (iClub) under the Women Land and Corruption in Africa Project funded by Transparency International.
Geared toward enhancing staff knowledge on gender mainstreaming and implications for project development and implementation, the training brought together fifteen participants and was facilitated by Madam Vaiba K. Flomo, formerly of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Gerald D. Yeakula, Program Manager, welcomed participants and underscored the importance of focusing on gender in light of capacity building. He called on members of the iClub to seize the opportunity and use it to be more involved with the work of CENTAL.
The first session of the training on sex and gender provided participants a clear difference between the two terms. Sex, according to the training facilitator is that which is God given, it is biologically defined and is determined by birth, while gender refers to construed characteristics share by men and women. Most of the discussion during this section was centered on the stereotyping of gender related issues, which place women and children in a disadvantageous position. In Liberia for example, the thought that women are lazy and that men are strong and should have control over their female counterpart was discussed and the facilitator advice that in this time and age, participants attending the training should serve as agents and ambassadors of gender equity. She added that there should be increased awareness by civil society organizations to reduce the widening gap, which still exists between the gender classes.
Madam Flomo lamented on the provisions of basic gender needs as a means of reducing such gap, something she said is still lacking in many parts of the country and constitutes the major cause of the rise in violence against the vulnerable gender population (Women and Children). According to the facilitator, women for example are mostly concerned with the wellbeing of their home i.e. the provision of food, healthcare, safe drinking water etc., something she described as practical gender needs. She said that civil society should now focus on resource mobilization for probable intervention in this area something she added would make significant stride in limiting the extent of gender inequality. She said this could be an alternative to the high interest loan taken by women around the country, which is continuously keeping them in a poverty circle.
The Facilitator educated CENTAL staff and others on gender mainstreaming issues, something she referred to as an implication of actions such as legislations, policies, traditions etc. on men and women in a particular local. Civil society organization and other relevant public and private actors must speedily address these issues, she said. In many part of the hinterland, women are forbidden to undertake certain task many of which are based on traditional customs and norms. In certain part of Lofa, women are forbidden from conducting certain agricultural activities such as: planting of cocoa, coffee and rubber, averred Madam Flomo. She also said that women are not allowed to lead a delegation or negotiate land issues in most of the hinterland. In Urban Liberia, women are mostly left out of family inheritance because they are seen as ‘passer-bys’ within the family. It is a stereotype that they are going to get marry and become the responsibility of their husbands and not their family.
Participants at the training expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn about sensitive gender issues and vowed to put their knowledge into practice.