Members of the Western Region Women Network Association (WERWONA) Tuesday, December 5, 2023, celebrated one year of robust advocacy since their establishment by the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) under the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA 2.0) Forest for a just future program.
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.
The celebration was done by organizing a two-day regional annual learning and experience sharing events 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.
Since its establishment, the organization has prided itself on several achievements over its one year. Noticeable of its achievements are: formal recognition of the organization by the national government, local county officials, and international partners; strong social cohesion and strengthened relationships within member organizations within WERWONA; legalization of the organization through the completion of its articles of incorporation, business registration, and bank account respectively.
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.
The annual meeting was attended by local county authorities, and women from the various counties in the region, among others.
Speaking at the gathering, Madam Mary G. Varney, Rural Women President of Bomi County said “Let’s put our feet on the ground and know that it’s time for us to work. If you have not been working, it’s time for us to work. SDI, we say thank you for encouraging our women to come and take part in this activity.”
Daniel H. Wilson, a Social Worker at the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection based in Bomi County said “When it comes to gender, there is a huge equality gap and this session is very important. The issue of women’s rights is not one person’s business. There is a need for women to rise up and be bold. Our offices will remain open to support this women's organization.”
Also speaking, the District Commissioner of Senjeh District, Madam Maima Free-Freeman said “We have come to say thank you to our powerful women. We need unity among women if we must hold together. We need to put aside petty jealousy. Furthermore, we need to change our attitude and speeches so we can make big things to happen. We need to stand for a cause and achieve big things as women in the western region.”
The Bomi County Coordinator of WERWONA, Madam Jereline Mambu said “Thank you for positively impacting our lives and this will go a long way in making our organization and the region powerful.”
Madam Lydia Ballah, Regional Coordinator of WERWONA recounted that “It was not easy from the very beginning, but it was worthy. But we say many thanks to the SDI for reaching us this far. We want to go national and international, elevating our activities as WERWONA. We pray that other women will join, and we will stand together as women.”
James G. Otto, Program Lead of the Community Rights and Corporate Governance Program (CRCGP) at the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) recounted that during the initial stage of their project, they realized that women were part of processes in their communities, but their voices were not part of those processes.
“We realized that and decided to bring the Western women together under one umbrella, and we are celebrating one year today. We are happy that the group is now recognized by the government of Liberia. After 20 years of SDI’s existence, we are now shifting our work, and we want to work through groups. We want to support our work through you. For example, if the company doing the wrong thing, you can go there yourself, and we don’t need to jump on a car and come. The issues may not be the same, but that small issue common to all the three counties is what we want to work on as a group,” he said.