Liberia. Heard of it?
Me? Only vaguely. And I keep calling it Iberia – and that’s a European peninsula.
I now know that it’s a country in West Africa (bordering Sierra Leone), created by settlers from America in the 19th Century, some of whom had been freed from slavery. But what is truly amazing, is that until I saw this documentary I had no idea about the remarkable achievement of the woman of that country.
Liberia ticked all the boxes that is often associated with African countries and of the stories reported in the media:
Dictator. Tick. Civil war. Tick. Child soldiers. Tick. Systematic rape of women and female children. Tick. Corruption. Tick. Poverty. Tick.
I know I’m being really flippant here, but hold on a sec. Maybe it’s because it was ‘just another corrupt African country’ that this particular story seems to have been by-passed by the rest of the world, until these filmmakers came across it.
After many years of turmoil, yet another civil war, and watching their husbands forced to fight and their children die, the women of this poor country stood up and said: “Enough”.
Initially, women in Christian and Muslim churches came together to form a group to begin a peaceful protest to try and speak to the country’s leader. They demanded an end to the civil war. As fighting continued, the women’s group got bigger and could no longer be ignored and eventually peace talks began. (I’m making it sound easy – it wasn’t). Then the talks broke down, so the women staged a sit in – effectively blocking in the warring factions in their hotel rooms, stopping them from leaving until the peace talks could come to a successful resolution.
In 2005, when democratic elections begun to fall apart (as the UN were doing such an awful job) – the women’s group took over their organisation. Liberia is the only African country with a female president. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Why hasn’t she been invited to the USA or UK?
This documentary is a testement to how ordinary people can make a difference and affect change through peaceful means.