About my life in Armenia, about being a mom and an activist, working for women's rights.
The challenges and benefits of raising a family in a post-soviet republic.
Finding a place, my place and calling it HOME.


Liberian journey #2

My second day started with an early breakfast with my colleagues; Alla from Fund Sukhumi, Georgia, Nino from Women's information Center in Tbilissi and Pervana from Yuva Center in Baku. After breakfast we were greeted by the Kvinna till Kvinna staff in Monrovia to have an intro of the week and a short presentation of their work in the country. Kvinna till Kvinna started field work in Liberia only last year with at first 2 local partners and now supporting and partnering 7 women's orgs in the country and working on many issues; peace and security, 1325 and GBV, Reproductive health, traditional practices endangering women's lives. Kvinna is one of the rare organizations supporting genuinely the local women's groups' needs and working on equal levels with them. You can read more about their work around the world on http://www.kvinnatillkvinna.se/en .

Our first visit took us through a crowded street to WONGOSOL's office; an umbrella organizaton gathering over 80 women's orgs in the country. We were greeted by the director, Ms Marpue Speare and Ms Frances Greaves from Voice of the Voiceless member organization. Our first question "how did you do it, how did you stop the war?" engaged our hosts into a passionate description of the past decade of women's struggle in Liberia.
In an environment of general fatigue from the on-going decades of war and conflict in the country, some 15-20 activist women stood up and said that they had enough of this! they started slowly talking to other women going from hut to hut, raising awareness first among their immediate families and relatives, then friends and acquaintances and then others. Their message was very clear and united all women regardless of their faith or ethnic background: 1- stop the rape towards women, 2- stop the rape towards their children/daughters and 3- stop sending their sons and husbands to war to be killed. No one would of disagreed with these principles as women, as mothers or sisters, - said Frances -, so our numbers grew more and more to reach over 10000 women, even at some point the wife of the president joined. After the last wave of armed conflict in the late 90s, peace negotiations were planned in Ghana. Women were excluded but protested, picketed until they allowed 2 women in the peace hall as observers. During these negotiations, those women observed how men were coming together drinking beer and then going back to their camps and continuing the war. They shared their observations with women's activists and groups and the whole community mobilized for the last peace meetings and pressured the men to come to an agreement of a cease fire and did not allow them to leave the hall, threatening to undress (which is an important insult in the Liberian culture to have women take off their cloths in a public place) - they also used abstinence from any sexual activity "wives and concubines together told the men, we have no body for sex for you if you don't ensure the peace for us and our children",- recalled Frances laughing, - "and it worked, men realized that women are up to something, that they need to resolve this issue quickly!"

Most of them were regular women, without higher education and they were able to succeed, because of the women's involvement the following was insured:
- No men involved directly in the war was in the new government
- A cease fire in 2 days negociations
- Men and leaders punished for war crimes

Afterwards, they elected a female president, Ms Johnson-Sirleaf. Frances says that it makes a huge difference to have a woman president, she looks into things with a gender perspective but still her parliament lacks women deputees. "After we made sure that we had peace, we the women we returned to our kitchens and children" added Frances with a disappointed smile. But WOMNGOSOL is working to empower women and raise awareness on their rights. The challenges are enormous but these women were once able to mobilize a whole nation and stop the civil war ravaging their country...

I watched these women walking everywhere heavy bundles on their heads and babies attached to their backs, on the streets, in the offices, at the market; strong, determined and inspiring.

- once i return home, i will edit a short video of the interviews i recorded during my visit -


  1. Lara jan, this is fantastic material and very inspiring. It made me think how we can organize women here. The war definitely is something that jolts people but the same can be DV and discrimination or marginalization from society. If they started with 20 women we can too!!! How long did it take them to become 10000 strong?

    1. they started in the 90s slowly raising awareness in the different communities, muslim and christian women together. They also take care of local community conflicts including DV. But the culture plays a major role, their approach is very maternal. People respect them as mothers and elderly women, they listen. They are also very helpful to each other, solidarity is what i saw the most. they help each other in times of need, violence or with the children. They are amazing in so many ways but i have difficulty imagining armenian women acting in this kind of solidarity and support. i could be wrong also.

    2. perhaps we should rethink our approach or research what tactics work best: young activism vs maternal approach. I hope you took photos and videos which we could use in a presentation to make the point. Perhaps Armenian women learn to look up to their black sisters!