A women?s group is helping to consolidate the peace in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, a region that for over a decade has been one of civil war and upheaval.
The Mano River Women?s Peace Network ? named after the waterway that runs through the three West African states ?- is helping to rehabilitate refugees, elect women to high office, and create a peace network to encourage cooperation and understanding at the local level.
Saran Daraba Kaba is the founder of the network, called by its acronym, MAROPNET, for short. She says among the group?s new efforts is the establishment of three community development radios ? in Balamuya on the border between Guinea and Sierra Leone; in the Guinean town of Lola and in a yet to be determined site in Liberia?s Loffa country.
MAROPNET is also encouraging traditional communicators, including griots, to back peace efforts through its Preventive Action Project (or PAP).
?In Guinea, we trained nine categories of traditional communicators. Now, we have a network of communicators working on conflict, HIV, and government. They are full-time players because they speak in local languages which people understand.?
She says another issue among her group?s agenda is to see that womens issues are included in the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration efforts (or ?DDR?) in Liberia and Sierra Leone:
?Women who were sexual slaves of the rebels have not been taken into consideration in the DDR package. So we have hundreds of women with children in Sierra Leone who were ?married? to rebels (but who now have) no official status. They were rejected by their own communities because they had been with the rebels.?
Kaba says MAROPNET is working to elect women to parliament in next year?s elections in Sierra Leone and Guinea. She says one of the group?s members is already serving in Liberia?s legislature, while another is the vice-speaker in Sierra Leone?s House of Representatives. Kaba credits MAROPNET with successfully supporting the peace process and in helping to elect Africa?s first woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, of Liberia. She says the group is a model for the continent and the world.