November 02, 2006
Liberia: Day 4
Thursday, 2 November, 2006
This morning, one of my housemates returned home to Ethiopia. He had been working for IRC in their reproductive health unit for four months. There are many "ex-pats" (people on extended work contracts away from their home country) employed in Liberia through the numerous international organizations operating here. It is a challenging lifestyle, and Iâ€šm very glad I am a consultant/trainer who can return home in two weeks.
Today, Kelly (gender-based violence program coordinator for Liberia) invited other international NGOs interested in GBV (gender-based violence) programs to meet with me and learn more about IRC's Men's Involvement Project. At the table were people from the United Nations Relief Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF, the Christian Children's Fund, the United Nations Family Planning Association, and the American Refugee Council, as well as Annie from the Ministry of Gender. My description of MRI's approach to understanding and engaging men obviously intrigued and inspired everyone. They were also very appreciated of my expertise and advice in helping to organize an interagency campaign to engage men in violence prevention. The next step will be including men in the annual march against violence during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in late November.
This meeting enhanced IRC's role as a leader on this issue, and established MRI's expertise as a valuable resource. They were already asking if they could send their staff to the MRI training planned for our next visit to Liberia.
Kelly, Sara, Ballah and I had a debriefing meeting at a nearby beachside restaurant. (Suddenly, there were white people.) In addition to an overview of my recommendations, I gave them gifts of the "courage=compassion" t-shirts and handbooks we were bringing for the Nigeria training, a poster from the Family Violence Prevention Fund, a book on engaging men in violence prevention, copies of Voice Male magazine, and a poster from the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts. We all agreed that this consultation had accomplished a tremendous amount in the four days of my visit.
The day ended with a dinner at our house with three Kenyan men and a woman from Liberia who is the reproductive health program coordinator for IRC. "Mama G" told us about her experiences as a displaced person during the war, helping to build health clinics in border towns with Ivory Coast. She then had us feel the bomb shrapnel still lodged in her neck that almost killed her three years ago.
Tomorrow I leave for Nigeria. Unfortunately, my plane flight from Monrovia to Lagos has been delayed to the afternoon, which means I will miss the last connecting flight towards my destination in Abakaliki. I am supposed to meet the delegates from Rwanda and Zambia and the guide from Abakaliki at the Lagos Airport, a daunting prospect under the best of circumstances. My experiences traveling in Africa have helped me to learn to take each challenge as it comes, and have faith that it will work out, just not always in my timeframe.
With thanksgiving for all of our experiences of peace, Steven
Posted by Daniel at November 2, 2006 11:44 AM