Liberia – Day 1

Liberia is hot. Not as hot as Ghana will be, I’m told (oh crap!), but more than enough for northern boy here. In the back seat of the van, repeatedly catapulted toward the ceiling by what could only optimistically be called “roads”, I discover that the fan isn’t the only thing that’s not working. Seatbelts appear to be only slightly more than ornamental, and I find myself clasping at the nylon webbing with one hand, holding myself down like the bull rider who only has to make it to a count of ten. Me? I don’t know when I get to let go.  We’re on our way from the Liberian Womens’ Sewing Cooperative (that operates out of the basement of a burnt-out pre-conflict commercial building) to a WE4SELF, a womens’ jewelry cooperative that operates out of  a rehabilitated shipping container.

We’re met with smiles and welcomes everywhere, which is not surprising for a tour sponsored by a government eager to show some successes in its efforts to bring the country back from having burnt and bombed itself back into the middle ages.  But it was the self-organized efforts of the country’s women who forced an end to the conflict, and these womens’ groups we’ve been visiting provide all the evidence needed of their ability to build this country back again from the ground up. Mind you – the men are doing their part too. But the oomigod-look-what-we’ve-done empowerment of Liberia’s women is a beautiful thing to see.

We talk with Eleanor, and Grace and Theresa and half a dozen seamstresses whose name I can’t remember, each showing me their “commitment pledges” on the wall of the cooperative: what they’re working for, out there for everyone to see, for their co-workers to hold them to: school for the kids, to learn to drive, to “become the best sewer I can.” We talk about kids, and I remember I have pictures on the camera of Andy and Jem skiing. I show them, then we all pose together for more pictures. There’s hope, there’s expectation, but more, there’s determination. These are the women of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell“, which yes, technically is a Disney film, but not in the way you think. Abigail Disney documented how these women – these women –
brought the warring parties to the negotiating table, then barricaded them in until a peace settlement was reached. It’s humbling as all hell.

Will try to post a few pics if I can. I’m surprised I’ve got any connection at all right now!

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