From a young age, Rebecca Baryogar was told that women weren’t allowed to contribute, that they were “men’s property”. Today, she is a leader in her community and a strong advocate for women’s empowerment and rights.
Rebecca Baryogar grew up in a community where women were not allowed to attend meetings, even if they were the ones developing the communities. She remembers men saying that women didn’t have anything to contribute with. Before she joined the women’s group that Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation LIWEN organised, she felt like she didn’t have anything meaningful to do with her life.
“Before I met LIWEN, I just use to sit in the community doing nothing, even starting my day was difficult. Then one day LIWEN invited me to go to their meetings and workshops. At first, I was scared—I didn’t even have clothes to wear. But I tried to go there to learn. And I was taught that women are important in society,” says Rebecca.
Thanks to the training that LIWEN offered, Rebecca felt comfortable enough to leave her comfort zone and start taking community initiatives. She told other women to join the group, as well as encouraged young girls to take their education seriously and not to look down on themselves.
“LIWEN teaches us to know our worth, taking part in meetings, supporting women’s political participation and getting involved in community initiatives,” says Rebecca.
Because of her advocacy work, Rebecca was selected as a women’s leader and is now commonly known as “mama G” in her community. Since learning her own potential and power, she feels like she has become a very happy women who never allows anything to hold her back.
“I want to send women the message to never say that it’s too late, because it’s not too late for any woman to learn and get what she wants,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca has become an important leader in her community and many depend on her advice. While we are conducting the interview, three people are waiting for her to help them resolve their conflicts.
“When I see people waiting for me like this, all I can say is now I know that anything a man can do, a woman can do as well. I’m very happy that LIWEN opened women groups in our community,” she says.
During the pandemic, Rebecca and her team were involved in raising awareness about covid-19, the importance of washing hands and keeping social distancing.
“I knew that the hospital wouldn’t get them medicine and I wasn’t going to sit there and do nothing. If we get sick, there is a risk of a lot of us dying, just like we did during Ebola.”
A while back, Rebecca got elected “zone leader” for the Jecko Town community. She became the first female zone leader ever—winning with more than 500 votes against her male opponent.
“The women and the youth stood behind me, they told me ‘oldma we see your hard work and want to take you to highest level’. My daughter said to me that women leading are good, because they want good things to happen for everybody,” Rebecca recalls.
Rebecca didn’t attend school while she was young but is now enrolled in the public evening school. She has become a very influential woman who knows how to communicate with her community. Her leadership has brought many people together and the crime rate in the area has been reduced.
“I want the government to promote women’s empowerment and free education for girls, because the future of Liberia is in the hands of women. I want the government to respect women because they are important. I want to tell both young boys and old men to stop beating women,” says Rebecca.
Because of the leadership position Rebecca has attained, the men in the community are now more open and happier to work with her.
“I want women to be peace makers when they are leaders. I encourage teachers to also teach the men about women’s rights, because most men aren’t used to seeing women having rights,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca excitedly expresses that she feels good about contributing to her community and society.
“My husband and children are so happy and proud of me. I make my husband attend most of the training on women’s right and political participation as well, so he can encourage his friends to work with me to make the community a better place”.
Kvinna till Kvinna has worked for women’s rights in Liberia since 2010 and we have an office in Monrovia. We support and work with several local partner organisations, including LIWEN, to promote women’s equal participation in society. Read more about our work in Liberia »