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Women: Pillars of Strength during Liberia's War

While women are often viewed and tagged as "the weaker sex", I dare say that this label is totally erroneous. The reason for this conclusion is simple: when war erupted in Liberia in December 1989, no one knew it was going to last as long as it did (14 years) before there would be any lasting semblance of peace in that Country. As a Liberian who witnessed the horror of those years of unfortunate and chaotic events, I can relate here that women were proven to be the strongest pillars of strength, courage and bravery in those uncertain times. During the war which was fought in many phases, men were often marked as targets to be killed by one fighting group or the other. There were women combatants fighting in one group or another but by their sheer numbers the men dominated the fighter groups. So, even though men were largely earmarked as targets, this definitely does not mean that women and children were not killed as well in the course of the war. However, it seemed it was a very macho thing with one group of men viewing the other as "suspicious" or "spies" who needed to be eliminated. There were incidents were men were lined up, shot execution style and then buried in mass graves or dumped in rivers or swamps. Many women were thus husband less or without their constant companion and were left to fend for themselves and the children. It was then that the inner fighter surfaced in many women. Other scenarios existed where some women hid their partners in thick forest areas, abandoned buildings, etc. and moved from place to place in a bid to protect their lives. Many times it was the women who ventured out to look for food and other bare necessities to help sustain their families and keep them together. Once the stores had been looted of all the goods, and commodities were being sold at extremely exorbitant prices, it was the women again who traded and bartered whatever worldly possessions they had left just to make a way of survivial for their famliy. Personally, I walked several miles every other day to buy food for myself and my then boyfriend who later became my husband. We were internally displaced (forced to flee our warm apartment when armed men ordered us out) briefly living outside under the stars in a compound belonging to the US Embassy near Monrovia, the capital. There were no cold storage facilities at this point so women often had to cook daily to ensure that their families had fresh food. Water was scare to come by and most of the population had to drink well water or use stream or river water. What this war in Liberia clearly demonstrated was that as women we were way stronger than we ever knew or imagined. Then there were the sisters and mothers who got raped or victimized simply because they were women; belonged to a certain ethnic group being targeted by a rival fighting group; or were brave enough to venture out when it was unsafe and uncertainties persisted about who or what dangers they would encounter while out and about fending for themselves and their family. Still, they persevered and swallowed their fear just to put the priority of their families first. Despite all the trauma that the population endured (men, women and children) I can say that the Liberian people as a whole have a resilience I certainly cannot fathom nor say from whence it came. As a woman who saw unspeakable horrors in some cases and the inhumanity and cruelty of man against man (as in "human beings" generally) I can say that I am very proud to be a Liberian woman simply because of the strength I witnessed in other females as well as got to know I too possessed. The fact that we can go on with our lives while we still find room for laughter, forgiveness and love is a testament to the force of the nature and fiber of women. The war terrorized us all, traumatized us all beyond imagination yet, it did not break our indomitable spirits. Long live the Liberian woman and by extension women everywhere.


JMKELLAM's picture

Thanks for Sharing


Thanks for sharing. I see women as able to put aside their ego or the need to win or be right in support of the better outcome - in this case, staying alive to support themselves and their families.

In friendship,


Barbara M Bracewell's picture

Thanks Jenna

Yes, indeed Jenna. Women are a sturdy rock especially in times of uncertainty. As I discovered during our unfortunate civil war, when the need arises we meet it head on as real warriors do. Thanks for reading.


Greengirl's picture

Dear Barbara

Your story is very touching. I agree with you that women are firm pillars! What we lack in physical strength, we have stacked up in inner power. Your experience sure reveals that you are a strong woman. I celebrate you and every Liberian woman for standing up for themselves, their families, friends and most importantly, their Nation throughout the very harrowing experiences of the long years of war and struggles in Liberia.
Keep being strong!



Barbara M Bracewell's picture

Thank you Olanike

Olanike, I truly appreciate your comments and observations. Indeed, we as Liberians went through a great struggle and unfortunate suffering but, through it all we remained strong by God's grace and guidance. I take comfort from your kind words of encouragement and will continue to be strong.


Antego2010's picture

We step up!

We step up always.....we are stronger than we get credit for.....tnk u so much for ur inside story.....and ur my inspiration for ur strong moral would be really good to chat with you sometime.....remained blessed

Well, I must tell you that I too am inspired by you my African sister. I love your postings and I know that you too are a strong woman. I feel blessed to share my story and to let it serve as an inspiration to you personally and hopefully, to other women who read it no matter where they come from. Usually, I have found that there is a sisterhood among women irrespective of where we hail from or what our backgrounds are. Our struggles, goals and aspirations are very often so much the same and that is why as women we connect when we hear stories from our worldly sisters. I too would love to chat with you sometime. You can write to me directly if you like to begin a dialogue. Look forward to knowing you better. God bless.


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