This blog entry is written byNancy Brinker, Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State.Monrovia, Liberia
We arrived in Liberia, although it was a very short trip, only 5 hours.
That afternoon we had the honor of participating in a Youth Development Roundtable with President Johnson-Sirleaf, along with Vice President Joseph Boakai’s wife, Mrs. Karyumu Boakai, United States Ambassador Donald Booth’s wife, Mrs. Anita Booth, and local adults who have personally been affected by the war and have worked with Liberian youth.
The participants were very inspiring. Second Lieutenant Geraldine George is only one of 36 women in the new armed forces of Liberia that the Government started training in 2006. She was a first year law student but followed the call to serve her country. Esther Davis was abducted at 14 by militia soldiers who attacked her village. She was taken into a women’s unit and taught to cook, load ammunition, and shoot. She then took part in the violence during the civil war. She registered with the organization, THINK, which connects schools, teachers, and students from around the world to build knowledge together, and she studies cosmetology and now is currently in 7th grade. Another inspiring individual was Moses Aware, who has been awarded as a top musician in Liberia, and was a refugee with his family in Cote d'lvoire. He uses his experiences to encourage other young people to avoid violence and HIV infection.
Like Geraldine, Esther, and Moses, all of the participants were outstanding. Their stories are of courage and hope. The oppression of war and violence denied so many an education. Mrs. Bush encouraged parents to ensure education for their children, and for those adults who were denied education, to go back and get the education and skills they deserve. The United States has supplied development funds, and support for civil society to overcome the lack of infrastructure. Many of the facilities are run by generators, and power supplies and water are grave problems.
President Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman ever elected to lead an African nation, is very well respected for her abilities to lead and keep the development going forward. She is a strong advocate to re-build the Liberian economy as she travels the world seeking support and investment. This is a challenging transformation in Liberia, and one which will require continued will, courage, and investment.