Despite the many challenges confronting women and girls in Liberia, lots of women have refused to be pull down or submit to whatever circumstance. Many of them have broken the odds and making immense head-ways in Liberia. There are thousands of them that are worthy of celebrating and one of them having to be Atty. Mmonbeydo Nadine Joah. Mmonbeydo is women’s rights activist, feminist, educator, USAID Public Service Scholar with years of experience as a gender advocate and has built a reputation as one of the most powerful voices for advocacy in women’s rights.
She has been deliberate in lobbying for change of law and policies in Liberia especially the Domestic Violence Law that was finally passed in 2019. Mmonbeydo coordinates the ‘Raise the Bar’ Leadership Program which did not only focus on skill building for aspiring women leaders, but also aims to counter patriarchy and misogyny in politics and leadership.
Mmonbeydo has been a committed campaigner and in the last few years has become a leader in the women’s movement playing an active role in the #WeAreUnprotected campaign and many others in Liberia. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Political Science with minor in Sociology, a certificate in Election Dispute Resolution and Communication.
Mmonbeydo is a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and a former House of Representative aspirant and the current President of the Network of Peace and Security Women in ECOWAS Countries (NOPSWECO).
Mmonbeydo grow her aspiration during the war as she saw many atrocities. In fact, as young as five years old, Mmonbeydo experienced discrimination alone with her family while fleeing the war and was almost killed in Kenema as they were thought to be rebels. Joah is a survivor of sexual molestation and abuse growing up. Besides, she saw women being marginalized and abused on a daily basis.
In 2001, the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia held an awareness workshop for high school students. Her school selected her to attend, she got inspired from then on, and she could not be stopped. Initially; Mmonbeydo wanted to be a journalist then her father had gotten her a small tape when he traveled to the United States. She documented a woman who burnt her child fingers because she had stolen. She interviewed children who were searching for food in the dumpster in Fiamah. Women who were abused by their husbands came to her and she took them to AFELL. She was only 15 and the half years old.
“That workshop really inspired me and set my heart on fire. It gave me a new purpose. I pursued it and this is where I am.”
What have been your major storming block growing up and even now and how were you able to break those odds to be where you are today?
As a daughter of a very conservative, radical, and patriarchal father, I had to cross a lot of checkpoints and dismantle many of the privilege to see through the lens I now possess. I had to find God for myself. Develop my own plan to be independent to follow my dream. Even now, I still evaluate myself every time to understand my current reality and create a personal strategic plan for my life.
You have been into advocacy for years now, what is one common challenge that women and girls face especially in Liberia?
Economic Independence is on major challenge every woman and girls in Liberia and the world faces. The freedom to make decisions on one’s own, many do not have. I’ve watched a women ask me to help them free a rapist because he was the source of their finance. I have watched women stay in abusive homes because they did not want to suffer after they had left. And certainly to let go of all the religious, social cords that bound me, I had to develop a plan to be financially independent so this is a common challenge women and girls face.
Are women really ready to bridge the huge gender gap in Liberia with all the challenges that come alone and what’s your prospect for the women and girls of Liberia?
We are ready!! Over the past few years, I’ve seen a real movement bulling of women. The moderate, liberal, radical and rallying together around issues that affect women. We have all realized that holding on to these various perks wouldn’t do us any good. We need to rally around the issues that concern us the most. For example, some women mostly care about women’s political participation and would like to do something about it.
Some care about women’s education, some violence against women and girls. Like in all sphere, you find your allies those who care mostly about that topic and are willing to work with others and move your agenda forward.
We have seen limited support from women in Liberia toward their fellow women particularly those desiring to run for elected offices. And in order to achieve gender equality, it is believe that women themselves must be supportive of each other; are the women of Liberia true to the fight for gender equality if so, is there a need to beef up their support a little more?
Like a said before, over the last three years, there has been a reckoning amongst women of Liberia. I do not see ‘limited support’. When Telia Urey was bullied and almost burnt, it was the women of Liberia that stood up. You saw another coming together when Botoe Kanneh issue came up. What women leaders need to do is to find those issues that affect women and men, citizens as a whole and let their constituents know how they intend to solve these problems
What have been your major achievements so far since you starting your advocacy?
The fact that we have been a bridge to see all these women leaders coming to work together on issues that affects them. Shining a light a abuses and letting leaders understand that there are people who will hold them accountable for failing to tackle violence against women and girls, the facts that women we have worked with are more knowledgeable of their rights and are taking actions in their communities to prevent violence from happening, the fact that we spearheaded the development of an online tool to hold stakeholders accountable for ‘violence against women’.
The fact we were able to contribute to a movement and sustain that movement to pass the Domestic Violence Act and ensure that there are people watching. And, what could be more satisfying than having the capacity to be able to represent the interest of women and girls especially when they are violated?
Where do we expect to see Mmonbeydo in the next ten to fifteen years?
In the next 15 years, I would like to see Mmonbeydo at a broader level. Not only in Liberia, but in other countries building on the success learned from Liberia of course, helping other women and girls around the world to overcome violence.
What one thing you want to share that that women and girls in general can learn from to meet their full potential as they go about life journey?
Get a plan – a plan for success and your life. If you are stuck in a situation ask yourself, how can I be out of this situation and how many years it will take to get out of this? Work on it steadfastly. I was stuck in a situation where my personal decisions did not matter anymore. After evaluation, I made a plan, stuck to my journey and this is where I am. We all need evaluation at some point in our lives. And if I can do it we all can do it. We all have the capacity to do something about unfavorable situations when we want to.