-U.S. Ambasador McCarthy
United States Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy says the fact that women are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pademic is a stark reminder of the need to do more in removing entrenched barriers against women empowerment and uprooting the structural impediments to gender parity that make women and girls so vulnerable to shocks like the pandemic.
He notes that there is perhaps no greater impediment to achieving gender equality than the deeply rooted cultural norms and practices that favor the education of men and boys over the education of girls and women.
“The facts and figures tell us what we stand to gain when we give women and girls equal access to education: A child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to reach his or her fifth birthday. Women with some education enjoy increased agricultural productivity and income than their uneducated counterparts, and they are less likely to be victims of sexual- and gender-based violence”, Ambassador McCarthy explains.
Making remarks in Monrovia during celebratrion of Internatrion Women’s Day on Monday, March 8, he said Liberian women, like women in many parts of the world, are disproportionately affected by the secondary impact of COVID-19, including the economic uncertainties created by the disease, adding, they are the small farmers unable to farm or sell their produce in local markets because of COVID-19. They are the cookshop and restaurant owners, the hair salon operators and the neighborhood “waiter market” sellers who lost customers and income because of the negative economic impact.
He says unlike many of their male counterparts, women have no other sources of income – no salaries from government or private sector jobs on which they can fall back to support their families.
He stresses that women deserve special attention as thre world design and implement policies to counter the broad social and economic impacts of the pandemic, saying, “And this is what we have tried to do in designing United States assistance to Liberia’s COVID-19 response.”
The ceremony was attended by President George Manneh Weah and other senior level officials of the Liberian government, including various national women groups. The national theme for this year’s celebration is, “Women in Leadership: Breaking Down Barriers in the Dispensation of a COVID-19 World.”
Despite priding itself for historically elected the first female President in Africa, Liberia is still yet to take women along their male counterparts as equals with women here serriously underrepresented in all sectors of public life, including politics.
Says Ambassador McCarthy: Our cash transfers program, for example, specifically targets market women, farmers, and other vulnerable groups, providing them monthly payments of $50 for three months – money they can use to invest in their small business, pay school fees, or meet other needs. And then there is our school feeding program that ensures their children are fed hot meals when they attend school.
The U.S. Envoy then describres Education as a powerful game-changer for women and girls, underscoring that it is an indispensable tool for their social, economic, and political empowerment, and key to ending the scourge of inter-generational poverty.
“This is why the United States’ development assistance to Liberia attaches special importance to educating women and girls. Our current emphasis is on increasing access to education for out-of-school children and adolescent girls between the ages of 8-15, providing them safe learning environments where they can acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills and ultimately transition to formal schooling.”
Reflecting over thee 120 years, he says the annual celebration of International Women’s Day globally has served to remind the world of certain undeniable truths; that respect for women’s rights should not and does not come at the expense of men’s rights; that everyone, including men and boys, have a role to play in the fight for gender equality; and achieving gender balance means more than simply expressing ideals about equal treatment of people under the law. Finally, he says tt is also about how communities, societies and countries can prosper and benefit by fully tapping the energy, talents, and abilities of all their people – women, girls, boys, and men.
“As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, let us therefore recommit ourselves to doing all we can to give Liberian women and girls equal access to the rights and privileges enjoyed by men and boys; to unlock doors to opportunities that have been shut to them for so long; and to draw on their immense abilities and resources so that they are active players in Liberia’s journey to self-reliance”, Ambassador McCarthy concludes and assures that in working together to do so, Liberia can count on the continued support of the United States, saying, “We’ve been here, we are still here, working together.” Story by Jonathan Browne