UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet commemorated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD) with a visit to Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, 7–8 March 2011, where she engaged with women demonstrating leadership in rebuilding the country from the conflict that dominated its recent history.
On her visit, she met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, community peace-builders as well as women peacekeepers. One of her first acts upon arriving in Monrovia was to meet with women in the security sector for an exchange of views on the challenges that women face in this area. Bachelet, a former defense minister in her native Chile, spoke forcefully on the need for women to be involved in national security, as soldiers, police personnel, prison guards and customs officials.
Later, she visited a “palava” peace hut in Totota, two hours from the capital Monrovia. Funded by UN Women and other partners, these peace huts are revitalized models of traditional conflict resolution that promote women’s leadership and peace-building at the local level. At the Totota Peace Hut, Ms. Bachelet got the chance to see how local communities resolve issues like domestic violence, parallel and in conjunction with formal methods of justice.
At the IWD ceremony at Antoine Tubman Stadium in Monrovia, Ms. Bachelet highlighted the topic of International Women’s Day.
“This year’s theme for International Women’s Day challenges us to think critically about women and girls’ access to education, training, science and technology,” she said. “Gender equality and the empowerment of women can only become a reality if we put the necessary resources into education and training for women and girls.”
During meetings with President Johnson-Sirleaf and members of her cabinet, Ms. Bachelet discussed how the Liberian government and UN Women could further enhance their existing co-operations on women, peace and security, as well as economic empowerment, including support for market women, efforts to address violence against women, and implementation of the CEDAW convention. Ms. Bachelet reiterated the need to strengthen rural women’s access to economic opportunities.
The highlight of Ms. Bachelet’s second day was her investiture by President Johnson-Sirleaf with the Star of Africa, presented to to her in front of an audience that consisted of Liberia’s elite, including traditional chiefs, women parliamentarians and other political leaders.