10 days in Monrovia by Benedicta Uweru-Apuamah
Dear CIB reader, it is an honor to have our guest writer, Benedicta Uweru-Apuamah, share her beautiful experience in Monrovia, Liberia on the blog. Kindly enjoy.
I had the rare privilege of representing Nigeria at the Young Political Leadership School (YPLS), Africa in Monrovia, Liberia between October 14th-17th, 2019.
It was my first time in the country so i checked google for some information about its history and was amazed to find out that Liberia is the oldest country in the African continent, about 172 years old. She started as a settlement of the American Colonization Society, who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. This explains why the Liberian National flag is very similar to that of the United States.
As a gender equality advocate, it is exciting to note that Liberia happens to be the first African country to have a female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and currently, the country has a female Vice President, the delectable Jewel Howard Taylor.
It was a memorable experience for me as I had the opportunity of observing their way of life. Speaking to a Liberian with a typical ascent for the first time is a bit of hard work. They speak so fast without completely pronouncing each work leaving you puzzled as to whether they are speaking English or a local dialect. They refer to pidgin as colloquial.
In all sincerity, I met very kind individuals amongst the Young Political Leadership School (YPLS) NAYMOTE team. They went out of their way to make the International Delegates comfortable. Below are some of my take home lessons from YPLS:
- Liberia has a high cost of living especially considering the fact that their mostly used currency is the US Dollars (USD). The USD is used more than their Liberian Dollars/Liberty.
- The current President, George Weah, a footballer comes from a poor background but public opinion states he isn’t doing well politically. This made me realize that having a good intention for going into politics isn’t enough but being equipped with knowledge, experience and exposure actually count.
- There are 15 counties in Liberia. In Nigeria, this is what we call “States”, in Liberia they call it “Counties”
- They eat lots of vegetables that are not commonly eaten in Nigeria, from Potato greens to cassava leaves.
- I found out about Eddoes too. Eddo or Eddoes are tropical vegetables very similar to Cocoyam. Truthfully, I didn’t enjoy it, my tastebuds are very Nigerian 😊
I was inspired to see a lot of young women who were politically inclined. Special thanks to Eddie Jarwolo, the Executive Director/ Founder of the Young Political Leadership School, Africa, who is doing a commendable job. He made a lot of sacrifices to make this program a reality.
- Prof Jerry Austin was our lead facilitator! It’s amazing when you learn from the best. Professor Jerry Austin has worked on behalf of President Jimmy Carter amongst others with over 30 years experience in Politics as a campaign strategist and advisor. We connected on a lot of levels and are working on something together, fingers crossed🤗
I visited the Miami-Abuja beach in Monrovia and had an amazing evening enjoying nature with other international delegates, some staff of the YPLS team over a bottle of cold drink.
- I had an interview at ECOWAS Radio in Monrovia. I spoke on “Female Participation in Politics”, the norm in Nigeria and the impact of being the only female Nigerian woman to have being part of the program so far amongst others issues
- I also spoke at the YES Liberia 2019 organized by Belenie Charity Foundation whose founder, George Diamond Karmu, is a pleasant human. His parents were prepared to host Dr Shedrach Akpem and I before NAYMOTE team took that responsibility from them. His mum treated us to a tasty Liberian meal and we had such a wonderful time. Y’all already know I’m a foodie😎
Without doubts, I had a wonderful time speaking to young people at the YES conference about how to make impact in their communities while sharing my own story with them.
After spending 7days in Monrovia, I was getting ready to leave when my travel agent reached out to me telling me about a flight cancellation by Air Cote d’Voire and a reschedule for the following day. I didn’t budget for that and sadly had already booked a local flight out of Lagos to my final destination. I learnt the bitter lesson of putting all flight itineraries on one PNR.
Did you know that a Passenger Name Record (PNR) is a record in the database of a computer reservation system (CRS) in the railway, airline and travel industries that consists of the personal information of a passenger and also contains the itinerary for the passenger, or a group of passengers travelling together.
The bilingual representative of the airline didn’t let me hear the last of it, stating, “You can’t sue us, its within our rights to cancel flights”. I was eventually lodged at the Millennium Guest House in Congo town, Monrovia. It was there, during lunch, I met with the deletable Macdella Cooper, a Liberian Philanthropist and strong woman!
Coincidentally, the African BAR conference attendees were lodged in this hotel and I eventually ended up not only having breakfast with a number of young and smart Nigerian and Ugandan lawyers but made a lots of new networks.
I also met very kind staff of this Guest House including Mr Roshan who is originally from Sri Lanka and the Ghanian Manager.
I worshipped at the Winners Chapel in Congo town in Monrovia, and it was just like home!
This has really made me wonder why we can’t team up and build ourselves, together as one powerful Africa. There’s no need to fight ourselves, close the border against one another, ignoring all the treaties we have signed. I strongly believe that together, we can do so much.
Benedicta is a Pharmacist and a ONE Champions 2017/2018