Meet Liberia’s‘Feminist-In-Chief’—and the Basis
Let’s talk so, and talk so: Sincerely speaking, not too many men see women as coequals. It’s a trait that has come from the ages. And particularly for Africa, more so in Liberia, men pride themselves as superior, if not supreme, to women. Long years of pervasive pro-male, and somewhat anti-female culture, make this near-normal. It takes a special man with some unique or extraordinary upbringing to give in to calls for gender equality. It’s not just as easy as some think.
That Manneh GbakuKpehTarpeh Weah, a typical Liberian man, and more so Kru, has assumed the Feminist-In-Chief portfolio is a queer undertaking. In traditional Liberia, and in Kru land, it is great honor—in fact it adds much dignity and prestige to the man who was more authoritative, bullying and lousy over the household, the wife(ves)included. It was, perhaps still, forbidden for a man to dilute his authority let alone act subservient to a woman. In our ancient cultural jurisdiction, women were properties of the quarter and treated as such.
Even with the evolution of time, when something call “gender equality” has become a rallying catchphrase in the international advocacy etched in national and international laws and covenants, pro-male tendencies and anti-female mentalities of ancient traditions still remain alive and kicking in varying facets and dimensions. In many cases, these ingrained negative cultural tendencies are wrapped in mere policies while the male dominated society quietly smiles at the subterfuge mistaken for gender equality actions–quiet smiles that nothing can and will come out of the laws, protocols and convention on the protection, defense and empowerment of women.
But the quiet smiles now appear confronted by Liberia’s “Feminist-in-Chief” taking the bold step to sweep the last residues of glass ceilings still hanging up there. And he said it militantly: “I have zero tolerance for sexual and gender-based violence, and I intend to personally champion my Administration’s renewed efforts to eradicate this unacceptable cancer from our society.”
He added: “We intend to pursue this by increasing our efforts to ensure women’s equal access to education and employment. We also will improve access, quality, and efficiency of public healthcare, and strengthen efforts to reduce the incidence of maternal and infant mortality.”
This said by the “Feminist-In-Chief” cannot be a mere posturing. He has never said what he cannot do. And for many other reasons: firstly, because he grew up in a slum and with a grandmother and saw firsthand how African woman was treated. He grew up with rage for how men treated women and with the desire and strong determination to liberate not only a grandmother but all subjugated women and girls.
This makes him one of few males joining hands to propagate “He For She” ideals,as he put it himself, to “be in the midst of so many distinguished ladies, mothers, sisters, and friends, who have pioneered and championed the cause of women in leadership in Africa in almost every field of endeavor.”
Second, the Liberian head of state flaunted a clear epitome of his pro-women and gender equality nature by his selection of a female, Vice President Jewel Taylor, as a running mate in the 2017 elections.
Technically, it can be said that it is he, and because of the rare human personality he is, that the residues in the glass ceiling broken by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, were swept out. George Manneh Weah has made Liberia make another feminist history—giving Liberia its first female vice president.
Third, as President, he is continuing to make more histories—continuing to break the glass ceilings and make women and girls count and matter not only in political decision making but also in economic and social empowerment.
As he correctly told guests at the opening of the Sheroes Foundation summit in Liberia, President Weah appointed the first female Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and another female who serves as Deputy Inspector General of the National Police.
National leaders, particularly in male-dominated Africa, don’t easily ignore ancient traditions of male supremacy and put women shoulder to shoulder with males. It takes special leaders to do so—and to do so not just for the occasion but in a way that promises rigid enforcement and monitoring—as President Weah has done.
Lest he’s taken for granted, or lest anyone thinks he’s pivoting gender sensibilities for the sake of it, President George Weah averred more militantly that his Government will “strengthen other measures to protect women from violence, and support victims, including removing obstacles to victims’ access to justice; ensuring effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; implementing training for all law enforcement personnel; and establishing more shelters for women victims of violence.”
So, in order to remain personally in charge of all this, he exalts himself “Feminist-In-Chief” (FIC) of Liberia and all and sundry must now know what it means when the Commander-in-Chief (C-I-C) is also the FIC.
And, finally, Yes, he can be “Feminist in Chief” because Etymologists do not lie in defining a feminist as “someone [a male or female] who organizes activities on behalf of women’s rights and interests, with the objective of achieving political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes, including seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.”