Advancing women’s rights critical to Liberia’s development – UN envoy

7 May 2008

The top United Nations official in Liberia has called for furthering the rights of women as a crucial element in advancing peace and development in the West African nation that is recovering from a decade-long civil war.

Addressing participants at the start of a five-day national women’s conference in the capital, Monrovia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Liberia, Ellen Margrethe Løj, yesterday highlighted the need to take the message of women’s empowerment and the advancement of human rights to the community level.

“When discussing these issues, ensure that they are not only discussed with intellectual women in Monrovia; make sure that all women of Liberia are involved in these efforts,” she told the gathering, which included UN and Government officials, diplomats, local women leaders, female traditional and religious leaders and members of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Organized by the Liberian Government with support from the UN family and other partners, the conference is focusing on “Advancing Women’s Human Rights in Peace-building, Recovery and Development Processes in Liberia.”

It brings together around 300 women from across the country to assess the role of grassroots women, women’s organizations and government in ensuring that issues such as security, sexual violence, education, health, agriculture and participation in local governance will be addressed.

Ms. Løj, referring to the current rise in food prices, urged Liberian women to increase food production to feed their families. “I think it is an urgent challenge for women in Liberia to see how to be more involved in the agricultural sector,” she added.

Meanwhile, a nationwide anti-rape campaign, organized by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) – which is headed by Ms. Løj – and the Government, has expanded to the country’s second largest city, Buchanan.

The Special Representative commended the leadership being shown by government and county officials in confronting the serious problem of rape, which is currently the single most frequently committed serious crime in Liberia.

 

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