President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf last Wednesday joined hundreds of women at a program marking the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2012, in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. At the event, President Sirleaf launched the Liberian Chapter of the African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) and the Adolescent Girls Unit at the Ministry of Gender and Development.
The African Women Entrepreneurship Program, which was started in 2010, based on the recognition that African women are so often the engine of national growth and development, is the brain-child of United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The first chapter of AWEP was formed in Zambia, and since then dozens of African countries have followed. AWEP aims to empower African businesswomen through training, strengthening public-private partnerships, and expanding business capacities and relationships.
In remarks, the President indicated that the themes for this year’s IWD celebration were very appropriate because they support Government’s initiatives to develop and empower women and girls.
She acknowledged the growing number of Liberian women entrepreneurs who are making positive contributions to the country’s economy and other sectors, and appealed for support not just from Government but all Liberians and other nationals within our borders. We must encourage these entrepreneurs to develop by purchasing their products, President Sirleaf said.
The need for the Adolescent Girls Unit at the Ministry of Gender and Development stems from the fact that girls are generally overlooked by many existing structures addressing youth and women issues in Liberia, the President indicated. This Unit will address the issues, needs, and concerns of girls, ages 10-12, with special emphasis placed on girls ages 10-15. Its purpose is to ensure national programs and policies are optimized to work better for girls in order to accelerate growth and reduce poverty.
An Executive Mansion release quotes President Sirleaf as saying that the global theme for this year’s celebration, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Future” and the national theme “Connect, Reconcile and Empower Girls and Women for the Future,” give Government the opportunity to look at the challenges, opportunities and potential for the younger generation of Liberian women. She described the population of Liberia today as one of the world’s youngest populations, with more than 50 percent under the age of 35, half of whom, she pointed out, are girls.