With the combination of an unstable family environment, poverty, high levels of physical and sexual violence such as transactional sex, empowerment through entrepreneurship would help alleviate women out of such situations. Liberia is the oldest independent nation on the African continent and has an estimated population of over four million inhabitants. Given the countries grandeur and independence, it comes as a great surprise that women and young girls are still subject to gender inequality and suffer severely from hunger and poverty.
Liberian women crave power, independence and equality. A common dream is shared and festers deep in the minds of Liberia's young, dynamic female population, a dream where there is female driven entrepreneurship, where organizations are led by women, and where women have the ability to make decisions and informed choices without discrimination or dispute -- a dream where women are able to walk equally amongst men.
Girls and young women in my country live in a very fragile environment, largely effected by the 14 years of civil war in our country. The country's healing process has been slow, due to Liberia's poor economy and weak state infrastructure. Rape cases and domestic violence are high, and continue to rise, women being the primary target of these violent sexual acts. In an effort to overcome these barriers, young women are often at risk of unwanted and arranged marriages, teenage pregnancy, and are more likely to drop out of school.
When a young woman is empowered, she makes her own decisions in how her life would be, without depending on her male counterparts. This can be achieved through equipping these young women with free enterprise programs, encouraging them to stay in school and help keep them focus. Young women can be inspired to make a difference and perhaps become Liberia's female leaders of tomorrow. In essence, entrepreneurship for young women plays a significant role because it leads to an increase in job creation, and makes them more productive and independent. It also ensures trust and confidence, meaning they will have hope of completing their education, and to make a meaningful contribution to the growth and development of their country.
A slogan enforced by the Liberian government "What men can do, women can also do," ultimately means that women have the same rights as men and that women are their equal. The government has initiated programs where young females studying science are compensated monthly to help keep them in schools and complete their studies. This initiative gives young women a solid platform and, as a result many women were able to start their own businesses, such as "Women Voices newspaper," "Liberia Women Democracy Radio" and "Women in Peace Building Network."
These female owned companies could play a key role in Liberia because of their persistence to thrive in a post-war country, which stands eminent. This is why strengthening the financial sector, which is weighed down by low profitability, weak governance and limited business opportunities, through better regulation and supervision would foster development outside natural resources, particularly for smaller enterprises.
My key message, as one of the G(irls)20 delegates is to ask for your cooperation, one woman can inspire, many women can make a change- I am asking to you to join me and the women of Liberia and Africa in striving for equality and empowerment.
By Finda Cailendee, G(irls)20 delegate, African Union
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