Liberian women prosper with newfound skills

Around 600 women have been trained in literacy, entrepreneurship and other skills to enhance their physical and economic security.

“My whole life I never spoke English. Now, at my age, I can write my name and I know my ABCs and 123s,”
– recipient of UN Women-sponsored training in literacy, leadership and economic skills – Bopulu, Liberia.

150 women met with New York delegates in Bopulu, a town in Liberia’s northern Gharpolu County, to share stories of their training under a UN Women project on how they have benefited from training under a UN Women project teaching them literacy and economic skills. Since 2012, around 600 women have been trained in literacy, entrepreneurship, leadership and other economic skills. These skills are particularly important to empower women in post-conflict societies.

Liberia emerged from over a decade of civil war in 2003 with much of its infrastructure and social fabric in tatters. Women and girls were particularly affected by the conflict, suffering extreme hardship and high incidence of sexual violence. When women have better economic skills and their safety is assured in post-conflict societies, they are more able to participate in politics and post-conflict restructuring and have a greater role to play in their communities.

With the economic skills taught by the UN Women funded program, women’s businesses are taking off thanks to a village savings and loan programme. A key product in this business is dried fruits and spices; by controlling the production and sale of these goods, the women of Gharpolu County have their own income and means to support their families. They also have a greater role to play in their families and communities.

“Now the men are running to us to ask us what we want, since we have our own money and our own security,”– a young woman participant of the economic training program.

The training has also enabled the women to form a special bond and support network with each other, especially during challenging times. A woman in their network was about to be left destitute after her husband decided to leave her and their children for another woman, without providing any financial support for her children. When the other women heard of this plan, they gathered together and barricaded him in his house, forcing him to leave money for his wife and children. The man relented and left the village in disgrace. With this intervention, the wife was able to continue to send her children to school.

For women in post-conflict contexts like Liberia, physical and economic security go hand-in-hand. If women and girls are self-sufficient, they are more able to walk away from abusive situations. As the women of Bopolu can attest, having economic skills and an independent income has enabled them to stand up for their rights and support their families and communities.