(New York, May 20, 2020) Liberia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. has lauded and stressed the need for the Local, National and International Partners and Stakeholders to ensure that timely mitigating interventions are instituted and supported; for Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19.
Ambassador Kemayah emphasized that despite progress according to reports that lives of girls are better today than Twenty-five – 25 – years ago; especially, considering that between 1998 and 2018, the number of out-of-school girls worldwide dropped by Seventy-nine Million; there is global awareness that significant gaps still subsist, which require global collective endeavor in addressing such gaps.
Said Ambassador Kemayah: “The socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 will have a corresponding adverse impact on achievements relating to adolescent girls, including their education. As has been an important lesson learned, it is essential to stress the need for the Local, National, and International Partners and Stakeholders to ensure that, timely mitigating interventions are instituted and supported for “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19”.
The earlier policies are put in place and supported globally, the more effective the implementation. These policies and plans must endeavor to address challenges such as literacy, school retention, early and forced marriages, teenage pregnancies, sexual abuse and exploitation, violence, economic empowerment, livelihood, and other harmful cultural practices. These are critical areas, which, when adequately addressed, would have transformational results, and help in the alleviation of the cycle of poverty, and ensure that the rights of adolescent girls are maintained and protected”; Ambassador Kemayah stressed.
The Liberian Diplomat then underscored that it is also critical to ensure that the Government of Liberia’s multi-pronged initiatives towards adolescent girls such as The Vulnerable Girls Program, which aims at retaining adolescent girls in primary and secondary schools with a target of enrolling Two Hundred – 200 – at-risk and vulnerable adolescent girls annually into private and public boarding schools; as well as day schools; and its economic empowerment program, which is intended to provide adolescent girls with livelihood, life skills training and financial and small business management remain operational, financed, strengthened and expanded to increase the number of girls and geographic area.
Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations accentuated that education for all girls is a must and human right. Said Ambassador Kemayah: “Education for all girls is a must, it is a human right, neither an option nor a favor, we have a collective responsibility to act now, let us together act, COVID-19 must not stop us, and absolutely nothing must stop us; as Educating a girl is educating a Nation, and Educating a Nation is Educating the World”; emphasized Ambassador Kemayah.
Ambassador Kemayah brought the International audience greetings from His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, and stressed that the relentless determination of His Excellency President Weah to defeating the scourge of COVID-19 remains undaunted. Ambassador Kemayah highlighted the commitment and support of His Excellency President Weah to vulnerable population, including the women and girls of Liberia.
Stressed Ambassador Kemayah: “With a focus on the well-being of the vulnerable population in Liberia, and pursuant to his unflinching practical commitment to the empowerment, growth, and development of the Women and Girls of Liberia, His Excellency President Weah, as Liberia’s Feminist -In- Chief, has instituted a pillar; dedicated to the welfare and protection of women and girls as an integral part of the Government’s response to COVID-19, and it is in this light, that, Liberia under the astute Leadership of His Excellency President Weah is very pleased to serve as One (1) of the Three (3) Co-conveners and Co-sponsors; Today, May 12, 2020; and welcomes the convening of this International event – “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19”, which underscores and solidifies His Excellency President Weah’s intent regarding sustaining visibility, political support and momentum for women and girls in the context of the global response to COVID-19. COVID-19 reminds of much Liberians have previously witnessed – the disruption in social life and economic activities and the current devastating impact on the livelihood of households and the national economy – another shock to our existing fragile economy. Hence, it is likely, the Government of Liberia’s Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan will place emphasis on the economy”; Ambassador Kemayah asserted.
The Liberian diplomat was speaking at a Virtual International event: “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19”; held at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. The International event: “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19” was Co-convened and Co-hosted by His Excellency Ambassador Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Permanent Representative of the Republic of Liberia to the United Nations; along with Her Excellency Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ireland to the United Nations and Her Excellency Ambassador Pennelope Beckles, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations.
Ambassador Kemayah noted that in the case of Liberia, adolescent girls are amongst the world’s 85% of adolescent girls who live in poverty; and nearly, 25% of adolescent girls in developing countries are out of school. Ambassador Kemayah said the number of out – of – school – girls was further increased by the Liberian civil war, which he said wreaked havoc on Liberia’s education sector. About Eighty percent (80%) of schools, mainly, primary schools, were destroyed, and many teachers fled the country; the Liberian Diplomat pointed out.
The Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations recalled that as Liberia was reeling from the devastating impact of the conflict, Ebola struck in 2014; stressing that at the peak of Ebola, all schools were shut down for Six -6- months, depriving at least One Point Five Million – 1.5 Million – School-age children; of their right to education, and threatening their health and well-being.
Ambassador Kemayah used the International event to renew his call for international cooperation, unity, solidarity, and commitment to fight COVID-19 and its adverse effects, and on behalf of His Excellency President Weah and the Government and People of Liberia, commended Liberia’s Local, National and International Partners for the assistance towards the protection of the rights of women and girls.
Said Ambassador Kemayah: “In view of the spanning spiraling effects of the crisis; particularly, on the economies of developing countries; we renew our call for international cooperation, unity, solidarity, and commitment to fight COVID-19, and prevent developing countries from deeper economic downfall which will have a reactionary cascading effect and the propensity to undermine efforts; aimed at “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19. Finally, on behalf of His Excellency President Weah, and the Government and People of Liberia; we thank all our Local, National and International partners, including, but not limited to the United Nations System, for the assistance to Liberia; aimed at ensuring the protection of the rights of adolescent girls, and women and girls in general”; Ambassador Kemayah underscored.
Liberia’s Chief Diplomat at the United Nations informed the participants that during the implementation of the Liberia Adolescent Programme, an intervention; in view of mitigating the adverse effects of Ebola, it was learned that One -1- out of Two -2- girls and boys who enrolled in 6th grade, would not continue onto 10th grade without intervention. He further said that Adolescent girls’ and boys’ transitioning to secondary school in Liberia is complex; just as the case with most other developing countries, and embedded in inter-linked issues, which he emphasized are primarily cultural, infrastructural – limited number of schools, and financial.
Speaking further, Ambassador Kemayah said, from specific consideration, these challenges stem from economic constraints, lack of access to transport, – girls have to commute miles to school, over-age enrollment, lack of parental and community support, and the continuation of the Bush Schools. Other factors Ambassador Kemayah emphasized are negative gender norms and harmful traditional practices, including child marriage, adolescent pregnancy, gender-based violence, and lack of society’s value for girls’ education.
Ambassador Kemayah further asserted that in response to these challenges, the Government of Liberia; with its partners instituted a number of programmes; targeting adolescent girls, during- and Post- Ebola, including Three (3) on-going-projects; namely: Vulnerable Girls Program; Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program under the UN/EU Spotlight Initiative; and the ECOWAS Girls of Excellence Scholarship. Others he said are the Girls Ebola Recovery Livelihood Support Project and the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls & Young Women Project, both of which he indicated have ended.
Regarding the Bush Schools, Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations stressed the need to continue dialogue. Said Ambassador Kemayah: “Regarding the Bush Schools, the need to continue dialogue between and among Government, relevant institutions, traditional leaders, communities, and civil society organizations in order to further raise awareness and take the appropriate action on the importance of the education of girls cannot be overly emphasized. Rural parents, especially mothers, are of the strongest conviction that the Bush Schools prepare their daughters for marriage, and to take on family values, including assisting in cultivating farmland, and selling farm produce. As we encourage parents to consider sending their daughters to school, we should also contemplate means to incentivize parents to alleviate the barriers that hold back their daughters from school enrollment”; Ambassador Kemayah stressed.
Ambassador Kemayah concluded by also expressing thanks to Her Excellency Mary Robinson, Seventh President of the Republic of Ireland from December 1990 to September 1997 & Current Chair of the Council of Elders of the United Nations and Her Excellency Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Former Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008 and Current Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, who served as Panelists, the Republic of Ireland for leading the ‘Drive for Five (5) Initiative: a Global Call to Action, and other Panelists for their excellent insights shared on “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19”; as well as everyone who made it a priority to participate in the event.
Ambassador Kemayah extended warm thanks also to his colleagues- Her Excellency Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ireland to the United Nations and Her Excellency Ambassador Pennelope Beckles, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations who partnered with him in Co-convening and Co-sponsoring the event: “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19”.
Over Two Hundred Seventy-four – +274 High-Level Distinguished Personalities from around the world; including Her Excellency Mary Robinson, Seventh President of the Republic of Ireland from December 1990 to September 1997 & Current Chair of the Council of Elders of the United Nations and Her Excellency Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Former Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008 and Current Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, His Excellency Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with Special Responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development of the Republic of Ireland, Ms. Alice P. Albright, Former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and Current Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education, Mr. Youssou N’Dour, an Innovative Senegalese Singer, Composer, Bandleader, and Producer who introduced the music of Africa to countless new audiences; he is one of the world’s greatest singers and labelled “West Africa’s Cultural Ambassador to the world” (New York Times), Ms. Mariam Adam, a Malala Fund Student Activist and ACE Charity Education Advocate for Girls’ Education, a host of Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, Diplomatic Missions and Civil Society Organizations amongst others joined and participated in the Virtual International event: “Building Back Better Education For Adolescent Girls After COVID-19”. Ms. Albright, Mr. N’Dour and Ms. Adam also served as Panelists.