MONROVIA, Montserrado – Effua McGowan grew up in Soniwen, one of several slum communities in country. She has since had the opportunity to travel outside the country and advance herself.

As the executive director of Education First, McGowan returned to Liberia to conduct workshops to empower other Liberian women.

Her organization recently held a two-day women empowerment workshop called ‘Amazing You,’ which saw over 100 women from various communities participate.

The workshop, which is meant to be part of a series of regular events, are expected to impact Liberian children by building the capacity of their mothers in health, education, agriculture, and leadership.

McGowan said by capturing the collective power of these Liberian women, her institution intends to help them work smarter and realize their full potential.

“Education First will invest in the women and make sure they realize their successes,” she said. “I am amazed by Liberian women.

Effua McGowan, executive director of Education First. Photo: Lloyd Massah

She mentioned that as part of the ‘Amazing You’ program, two workshop participants would be empowered financially and consistently receive assistance from her institution.

“Women are givers and Education First wants to teach them how to be selfish without feeling guilty,” McGowan said.

She added that similar empowerment for women would be extended to other parts of the country, especially in Maryland where her institution already operates a school.

Janice Cooper, the country representative of the Carter Center Mental Health Initiative in Liberia, spoke to participants about the impact Liberian women have on the country.

“The Liberian women needs to recognize the power they have,” Cooper said, as she stressed the importance of events that encourage women to pay attention to rejuvenation and self-care.

“Liberian women do not take care of themselves and each other,” she noted.

One workshop participant, Ora Barclay Keller, said the gathering of women was inspiring for the kind of work she does.

Ora Barclay Keller, executive director of the Girls for Change Organization. Photo: Zeze Ballah

Ora Barclay Keller, executive director of the Girls for Change Organization. Photo: Zeze Ballah

Keller, who heads the Girls for Change Organization, said she would share the knowledge she acquired from the workshop with her organization and community to help empower other young women in order for them to see themselves differently and realize that they can do amazing things.

As the October 2017 election draws nearer, Keller noted that there was a need for such workshops because women are no longer sitting in the back seat.

“All is being done to lift women in leadership,” she said.

According to Keller, one of the primary obstacles for women is for them to believe in themselves and their ability to compete with their male counterparts.

“Liberian women can do lot of things and all they need is some motivation,” she added.

Another participant, Nomthandazo S. Sithole, project manager of the Sustainable Marketplace Initiative, said she found the workshop useful.

“Liberia women usually focus on their daily lives and forget the other side of them that needs to be brought up,” she said.

As one of the many managers and directors present at the program, Sithole noted that the initiative should also focus on women at the grass roots level and not only on women at the corporate level.

Nomthandazo S. Sithole, project manager for the Sustainable Marketplace Initiative. Photo: Zeze Ballah

According to Sithole, women in Liberia are predominantly traders and home makers, which tends to demotivate them, noting, “the economic and personal factors have some effect on them in their various lives.”

“There are lots of potential in Liberian women that could make them become powerful, but they tend to forget about them,” she said.

Sithole said one thing she has notices about Liberians is that they are very good at talking about issues, adding, “Liberians need to go beyond the talking and come up with practical programs that could help elevate women.”

Education First is a nongovernmental organization which has been operating in Liberia for over six years. The organization runs an early childhood education center and a primary school in Harper.

Culled from Bush Chicken

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