Picture of the month

Picture of the month
Life is circular

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia)


I have been thinking about what Oprah said concerning educating young women to become future leaders in Africa.My thoughts turn in particular to Liberia because after all it is the most Americanized of all countries on the continent.I do not mean this in a good way either.
Liberia has a checkered past that makes me uncomfortable.First the effect of American blacks coming back to Africa and virtually taking over a land where native people were squeezed out, troubles me.One wonders what the area would be like today if they had not settled there.I do know that without ties to the states the chances of recovery would be slim. Still,America never stepped in to help the country in ways that would benefit it before,or during the war and the jury remains out now.So maybe The president should have gotten done away with that American style flag and found something more inclusive like South Africa did but she is a member of that very class of people who are descendants of the freed slaves and at the moment she has more pressing issues.
Just before she took office mama Ellen as some of the people call her made the statement
"Just my own performance … is going to raise the participation of women not just in Liberia but also in Africa. It's a big challenge but I'm looking forward to it."

On a web site about the country I also found this tidbit:
"Liberia, a resource-rich West African country of about 3.3 million people, is struggling to recover from a civil war that left around 250,000 dead, an estimated 40 percent of the women and girls raped and forced more than half the population from their homes."
In her inaugural speech the mentioned some priorities concerning these very traumatized women."The administration must endeavour to give Liberian women prominence in all affairs of our country. We will empower all Liberian women in all aspects of our national life. We will support and increase the weight of law... and deal drastically with crimes that dehumanize. We will enforce without fear of failure the laws against rape easily passed by the national assembly. We will encourage all families to educate all children especially the girls."

This will be tough because right now the schools,at least the few that are open are over crowded.They could use every kind of supply and they need teachers most that could are not even in the country.In addition i read only twenty five percent of the country is literate thanks to years of war and people being misplaced.All this ads up to a daunting task but the Harvard educated "first lady"should have some contacts and be able to call in some corporate help.During the war over 100,000 Liberians of "American decent" migrated back to the states.It is said that the money they send home is invaluable to economic growth.
Now consider that last week the Chinese blew in to town and next week G W is supposed to be there.China is looking out for it's own interest and in Liberia it is blamed for exploitation of workers no surprise since they do the same to their own people too.Now do we even want to know what junior Bush will do to help.While economic resurgence is needed to fuel growth and get her country back on track ethnic turf wars could be heating up as people begin leaving refugee camps and returning to the country.Juggling that mess is going to have to be done first or all else will fail.
I will be watching to see how she handles it and to see if, indeed we educate young women will the pull of power and money derail their priorities like their male counter parts. How will she pull her country up by the boot straps and do so without favoring one ethnic sect over another on the road to forming a better country.I guess they really are a baby America,question is can they over come it.