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.