Equipping Young Women for Better Leadership and Active Political Participation: A brief look at Naymote Mentorship Program.

“It’s high time that Africa stops looking with one eye covered. If each of you cover one eye now, you will never be
able to see the full picture. This is how Africa is functioning, we focus on men, we focus on boys, we focus on every
other thing but the empowerment of women” Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Leymah Gbowee

Madam Gbowee made this statement few years ago when she addressed an audience at the Kofi A. Anna Eminent Speakers Lecture series in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. This statement is a confirmation of the global call for gender balance in political representation, participation and decisionmaking which is backed by Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) numbers 5 and 10 which speak of Gender Equality and Reduced Inequality respectively. Though women continue to be hugely underrepresented at all levels of decisionmaking across the globe, the marginalization and invisibility of women in leadership and politics in Africa is at an alarming rate and Liberia is certainly not an exception.

The gap of marginalization that inhibits the visibility of women into the political and public space is due to several
factors which include but are not limited to cultural and traditional diversities and practices, institutional barriers,
restrictive laws, limited access to education and resources, etc. Yet, women constitute 49% of 2017 registered voters in Liberia according to data from the National Elections Commission (NEC). This clearly shows that women constitute a very significant portion of people who vote during elections. Frustratingly, these very women have been suppressed at all levels of decisionmaking, thereby making it very difficult for them to take the front stage in political life.

What exactly has Naymote been doing to bridge the gap?
Naymote Partners for Democratic Development with grant support from UN Women-Liberia, recognizing the fact that no society can thrive and prosper in the face of huge inequality, has been actively involved with mobilizing, educating, training and motivating young women at the grassroots level to step up and bridge the deep gap that exists when it comes to women in leadership and political participation. Since 2019, it has been about enlightening them that the role of women is not restricted to the private domestic sphere while men continue to exercise absolute control over the public and political terrain.
For the past two years, that effort has been paying off as a total of 225 brilliant young women across Liberia have been benefiting from various capacity building trainings as campaign managers, political activists, grassroots leaders and community organizers. In addition, they have been equipped with the necessary skills to conduct civic engagement events in their various communities to enhance women’s participation and leadership which set the pace to help break down barriers and build trust amongst young women to lead real change. In addition to that number, a new badge of 25 inspiring young women who participated in the 8th cohort of the Young Political Leadership School Africa were recently enlisted for a five-month mentorship program which is expected to begin December 1, 2021. They are expected to increase their knowledge and build their skills for future goals and milestones.
In making use of their training skills, those young women have gone on to establish a campaign called “the Legislature Isn’t for Men Alone” as an advocacy campaign to increase the number of women elected in public offices with prime focus on the national legislature. Their advocacy is meant to rally citizens’ support to demand genderfocused policy making and reform electoral laws in support of advancing women political participation and leadership.
These grassroots leaders have also established the “National Young Women Political Council of Liberia” with the overall goal of serving as a national advocacy framework on women issues. They are building grassroots network, grassroots social movements, creating awareness to end violence against women, mitigating electoral violence against women, and protecting women candidates, etc.

Since 2019, these 225 young females change agents are living up to their dreams to foster gender equality. Over the past two years they have organized and conducted 385 civic engagement events across the 15 political subdivisions of
Liberia thereby educating 14,921 persons (9,745 females & 5,176 males) on the importance of gender equality, the
30% gender quota, mitigating violence against women (especially violence against women candidates), gender in local governance, inclusive policy for women political participation, access to women’s rights/justice and the principles of democracy.

A total of 65% of the 225 grassroots mentees are college graduates whilst 30% are college students, and 5% are trained journalists. Overall, 75% are managing their own local organizations working on women’s issues and providing services to local communities and are very influential young women leaders.

In an effort to inspire these young change agents, Naymote has over the time managed to invite some very renowned
public figures and champions of women’s rights which include former President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf, current Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, former Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia, Justice
Gloria Musu Scott, and Representative Moima Briggs amongst others who have provided motivational speeches and
some kinds of mentorship to these young leaders since 2019.
The young ladies were also foot soldiers in the fight against corona virus. In 2020, they led communitybased initiatives to help eradicate the COVID19 pandemic through community engagements by sensitizing citizens to adhere to health protocols regarding regular handwashing, wearing facemasks and observing physical & social distancing at all times. During the special senatorial election in December 2020, they conducted doortodoor awareness, rallied thousands of registered voters, especially young women to update their registration status, and get out to vote.  
As part of their practicum in campaign planning/management, eight of those young leaders served on various campaign teams. As an act of appreciation, one of them in person of Sametta Appleton Manuba of Maryland County expressed satisfaction on how her acquired skills tremendously contributed to the victory of Maryland County Senator James P. Biney.
Mentees are expanding their professional knowledge and skills. A classic example is Zenabia T. Taylor who was awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2021 and was shortlisted for a fully funded master’s scholarship program in the United Kingdom. Zanabia, along with another mentee in person of Cece M. Nimely were selected in 2020 to participate in the West Africa Young Women in Politics Forum in Accra, Ghana. These young ladies have expressed interest in contesting future elections in Liberia and they are exploring every available means to help prepare them for the tasks ahead.
In a society where patriarchal gender norms restrict the role of women basically to the kitchen, Eddie Jarwolo and team are carrying on an amazing job in making sure that women have a place at every table of decisionmaking. They are dedicated to changing the narratives in ensuring that women are not simply reduced to being members of women wings and girls brigades in political parties, but rather nurturing them into becoming key decision makers.

Yes, Naymote is certainly on the right path by offering training programs for young women on political affairs, girls’,
and women’s right to participation, and roles in decisionmaking processes. They are equipping the next generation of female politicians and decisionmakers and promoting more inclusive representation of leadership at all levels of society where women are not kept at the back. At Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, their commitment to supporting grassroots organizations/movements that build the capacity of girls and women to participate both
individually and collectively in social, economic, political, and public life is something that inspires hope that the issues of women being marginalized will soon become a thing of the past in Liberia.

The project is supported by the UN WomenLiberia through the Government of Canada.
For more information info@naymote.com or eddie@naymote.com
www.naymote.com or www.yplsa.or
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