Women in western Liberia under the banner 'Western Region Women Network Association' (WERWONA) demand greater participation in land and natural resources management.
The women decided at the end of a two-day regional annual learning and experience to share the event with women groups engaged in land and human rights advocacy in Tubmanburg, Bomi County from December 4-5, 2023 under the theme: increasing women's voices through information sharing.
Established formally a year ago, WERWONA is a conglomeration of over sixty women organizations from Gbarpolu, Bomi, and Grand Cape Mount counties with the overall objective of ensuring women, young girls, and children in the region's rights are respected and issues affecting them are resolved more holistically.
In their joint statement, the women demanded clear knowledge and understanding of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with companies and communities in their region.
Since its establishment, the organization has prided itself on several achievements over its one-year existence. But despite these achievements, WERWONA believes there is a huge gap regarding women and young girls' participation in decision-making on land and other natural resources issues in the region.
“We want a clear understanding of the relocation plan for affected communities in the region. Environmental issues (air and water pollution) should be addressed. Affected communities of Barchico company should have access to the agreement between the government and the company and MOU with the affected communities,” the women said in their statement.
Section 101 (1) (Access to Environmental Information) of the 2002 Environment Protection and Management Law of Liberia states “Any person who desires to obtain information relating to the implementation of this Act or any other information concerning the development and management of the environment and natural resources in accordance with this Law shall have freedom of access to that information.”
The women also said “Western Clusters must employ more women in managerial positions and the company should follow the MDA it signed with the government. The plights of affected communities very close to the Western Clusters' mine must be addressed by the company and the government through the availability of funds and others.”
At the same time, the women are calling on the Liberian Government and partners to ensure that conflicts between Weasua & Tarpiomah clans as a result of interest from a logging company are resolved by the government and partners.
“The plights of affected communities very close to the Western Clusters' mine must be addressed by the company and the government through the availability of funds and others. Women whose farms have been destroyed by Barchico for road pavement must be compensated,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, the women are demanding that they must be actively, honestly engaged, and fully given the space for participation when it comes to land, concession, and other natural resources agreements because women, young girls, and children are always at a disadvantage as a result of these decisions.
The statement added “There must always be Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the greater roles of women must be clearly understood and respected. Moving forward, our fate should not be decided in Monrovia by stakeholders unaffected by these decisions.”