Mama Jenneh of Matamo Community of Tewor District, Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia
Climate change is now a reality for Most Vulnerable Countries (MVCs) and Most Vulnerable Groups (MVGs) across Africa. Adapting to climate change is not a choice for many of these women and their communities but a necessity. Women of Liberia, West Africa are being hit first and worse by the anthropogenic climate change which they are not responsible for. Putting these issues into context for access to clean and safe water and adequate sanitation in the face of a changing climate, the Society for Women Empowerment Education and Training (SWEET) Africa Foundation presents the situation through the lens of Mama Jenneh Sambola, a 65 year old widow and famer of Than Mafa Village, Tewor District, Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia.
Mama Jenneh Sambola is a 65 years old widow and farmer from Than Mafa Village of the Matamo Community, Tewor District, Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia. She heads the Sambola household after the death of her husband over 7 years ago. She has 7 children most of which have left home and several grandchildren under her care. She is the president of the Matamo Community Women’s group. The village of Than Mafa has a population of over 2000 people but only one hand pump women and girls work for about 12-15 miles to fetch water. The two major rivers are the Matamo and the Mafa. The main occupation of the people in the area is farming. The people grow rice, cassava, eddos, yams, sweet potatoes etc. Both men and women do farming but the bulk of the food is produced by the women. During the Liberia civil war the Than Community school was affected but in 1994 the Than Burphy Elementary School was set up in 1994 and has been closed due to lack of resources hence the children of Than Mafa needs to walk for over 10 -15 miles to attend Junior High school. Hence the community needs a market, school and clinic
Mama Jenneh grows cassava, pepper, bitter balls, rice etc from her farm. She is also a traditional birth attendant but has never attended school. Her first two daughters died on the same day during the late 1960’s from measles a common but often deadly disease killing thousands of children each year across Africa. During the Liberian Civil War Mama Jenneh and the members of her community had to flee their homes and live as refugees in the capital city of Monrovia or other neighbouring countries of West Africa such as Ghana. Schools, water and social amenities were destroyed during the war hence making life very difficult for Mama Jenneh and the people of her community. It is in this regards that the Society for Women Empowerment Education and Training (SWEET) Africa Foundation based in Limbe, Cameroon and Monrovia, Liberia working in close collaboration with the people of Matamo community to ensure that Mama Jenneh and members of community have access to clean and safe water and adequate sanitation. SWEET Africa Foundation started the process by organizing a community dialogue on the 2nd of May 2009 at the Than Mafa village with representatives of 26 towns and villages were present. The people presented their needs to SWEET Africa Foundation. This was a historic moment for it was the first time the community conducted such a dialogue. To ensure that there was effective community participation, SWEET Africa Foundation working in collaboration with members and key stakeholders of the Matamo community to set up a community based development agency called the Matamo Community Development Agency (MACODA). MACODA was officially registered on the 2nd of June 2009 under the leadership of Mr Burphy Fahbullah. The next stage of the process has been to undertake a Community Water Project to provide water for the community. Ms Rosemary Olive Mbone Enie, Geologist, Gender Ambassador/President of SWEET Africa Foundation working in partnership with Ms Maima Fahnbullah the Vice President of MACODA, holder of a BSc degree of Economics from the University of Liberia 2009, shall be undertaking the Global Women Water Initiative (GWWI) 2010, organized by the Women Earth Alliance (WEA), USA and partners shall organize a women and water training in Ghana February/March 2010. This training would help in the implementation of the MACODA water project using women as positive /active agents of change.
Access to clean and safe water and adequate sanitation are some of the critical challenges that face poor communities across Africa. The situation even becomes more critical as the communities experience arm conflicts and climate change. Liberia is the oldest republic and has the first African female president. As a post conflict and Least Developed Country (LDC) the Most Vulnerable Groups (MVGs) such as women, children, the elderly, people with disability etc continue to face several challenges including food security/food self sufficiency, water security , energy security etc.