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We are looking forward to having a lively exchange!
Brigitte and Birgit
Meetings in Austria
We’d like to meet also in person to discuss several topics. We will prepare questions for our friends in Liberia, discuss answers to their questions and have fun being together!
September: 24.09.2009, 18:00 Kennenlern- und Planungstreffen
Oktober: 15.09.2009, 18:00 Frauen- und Friedenspolitik
November: 19.11.2009, 18:00 Kochen, Familie, Freizeit
Dezember: 03.12.2009, 18:00 ?? we’ll find a topic!
All meetings at palaver-connected, Griesgasse 8, 8020 Graz
+43 - 316 - 712448
Our meeting is at Judys Place ( a public place where you can have a softdrink or something else to drink) and today is October 17th, 2009
this is Judys Place:
We (Christianah, Lesole and Brigitte - but still waiting for Cora, Vivian and Philomena) here in Harper now reading through the whole blog. Yes we have online access (we are using Brigittes Computer! and her modem).
Introduction of Christianah
Christianah is from Nigeria and just came to Harper to visit the Tubman University. Lesole is from Monrovia, she is working for the Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Fire-Service, Maryland County - based in Harper.
Lesolo is introducing herself a little bit more:
She as worked for and with women who where abused and sexual violated during the war but also working with women who are victims of sexualized violence. In Harper she had a project where are about 200 women and girls are comming together and supported each other and now she is also working with the women and do some training in agriculture. It is about how to plan cassava, corn and so on.
And here at the Fire-Department the women sit together and talk about women-empowerment. Lesole is the head of Liberia Female Law Enforcement Association. (Objective: advocate for women and children).
Brigitte is really impressed at the moment because she is learning soooooooooo much!!!!!!
Christianah will now tell a bit about herself (we are sitting at Judith Place - the Laptop from Brigitte is on, we are on the Internet - and now it is starting to rain - so we have to hurry up).
Christianah graduated from Lagos State Polytechnic, July 2007. She studied accountancy. She is 27 years old, single. She did her Industrial Attachment, Nigerian Tribune - a year programme. (during that time she did some newspaper publication for Nigeria). After that she worked with Manager Special Duties Department. She used followed him for outings (e.g. when her boss gave a speech - she went with him so she was able to build up a very good network). Those outings where always about a 2h journey from the office from Nigerian Tribune. After that she did a decoration programme (Interior and Exterior Decoration). Now she came to Harper (just a month ago) and is a student a Tubman University; doing her BSc in Accountancy. She decided to study outside the Country of Nigeria because of the stike going on in Nigeria for the past four month (there is a strike from the university lectures about the increments of the sudent fee but the government promised that the salary from the university lectures will also increase but they did not get more money and they did not get what the government promised before - that means that the governmental University is more expensive than a private University).
Vivian and Philomena are both Students of Fatima High School (Catholic Highschool in Harper). Vivian is in Grade 11 (from 12) and Philomena is in Grade 7. We are both over 20 years of age - but please dont wonder why we are still in school. Due of the Civil War we had to stop our school education - but now since the situation is stabel again and since we came back frome the refugee camp we tried to continue schooling in Harper. Actually two years ago. Most of our fellows in school are at that age.
Some thoughts about the Palava Hut:
We now also discuss about the Palava-Hut. By reading through the post from the Women from Monrovia we just discovered, that in Liberia we have a palava-hut but in Nigeria there is no such thing as a palava-hut, except courts. So in Nigeria, people go straight to the court if the have a dispute. In Liberia Lesole is talking about a palava-hut. When there is a certain disput - you discuss it first in the palava-hut and do NOT go to the court first. Your try to find a common ground for peace first in the palava-hut.
A picture from a palava hut:
We just learn Judy Andee (Ambassador of Culture) is the head of the section for palava-hut in Liberia. One of here tasks on national level is to "put people together for peace and reconciliation (Friedens- und Versöhnungsarbeit).
So that you get an "live-idea" in what we are doing - sometimes we are commenting on in. We have the computer open and as long as it is working we just write, look and talk! We now read your latest post and we are discussing how we will continue.
Situation of women in the rural areas (like Maryland County, River Gee, Grand Kru, Sinoe ...)
Lesole just tells us that the women are ding so much work here - they have to do so much work, she talks about what to do when the give birth to a child, how long they have to walk (sometimes it is about 7 hours - with an other child on the back, one child by the hand, a heavy load on their head ....).
So for her it is such an important topic to discuss about ways to empower women and to support women that they can have a better live.
Vivian and Philomena came later to the meeting - and will introduce themself a little bit more the next time, when we meet again. We are joining in and our topic is Women and Peace but also sexual violence against women and girls. And we are also very exited to be part of the group and looking forward to make new friends from Austria. Somehow at the moment it seems like that Harper and Graz are very close - this is something that is because of the Internet but also because we meet here with a women from Austria.
Some thoughts on Peace - Peace and Women. For us here in Liberia Peace is still an important topic. At the moment we do not have a Civil War - but still we can not really talk about peace. Peace is a process and a process that should include all. It seems very often that we as women are not included in all processes that have to do with peace, especially in those processes where decissions are made. We are aware that there is the UN Security Resolution 1325 where it is written that women are part of peace process and at all levels. This is still something we need to work on. Philomena and Vivian talk about the Train of Trainers for Youthleaders - where they are trained to work towards peace in the different communities. And it is great that there are women also in the training.
Our topics today are very broad! We are talking about how women live in Austria, how we are living in Liberia. What are the effects of the war. We are talking about the sexualized violence against women and girils during the war but we are sorry to say it is a topic that is continuing - sexualised violence against women and girls is continuing. Rape as a weapon of war is used in war time - but rape against women and girls, sexual assault we had before the war and still have it. Sexual exploitation and abuse is a huge topic (Vivian and Philomena will do a radio programm on it), teenage pregancy and much more.
Some Questions for you!!!
Now we will answer more of your questions the next time. But we have some questions for you:
# we are here discussing a topic here. Our question in Liberia is - how can we empower women? how can we secure livelyhood for women? we are really interested in how you see it - is there something you would suggest for us women here in Harper?
# how are you - or especially those who do not have a job and don't have a lot of money - surviving in Austria? How do you live in Austria. We would like to hear abut the women in Austria - who do not have a job and maybe do not have social security money - how do that women survive ? what does the government do for them?
# we want to know about your dressing? how do you dress?
# what is a traditional food in Austria (and send some recipes) - we will give a a recipe of palmbutter soup and bitterball (it is like eggplant).
and send us some pictures, even though we saw a lot of pictures from Graz - Brigitte brought some with here.
Some impressions from Harper:
We are going to meet again on November 14th, at 12 midday. We now try to get some more women. Talk to you soon!!!!
Lesole, Christianah, Philomena, Vivian and Brigitte
We are also very excited to have your first news!
Thanks a lot for your messages! Today we tried to find out a little more about Liberia. So we searched the internet. For us it’s very practical to meet in an Internetcafé for women. Not all of us know how to use a computer but together it’s no problem.
When we came to palaver today all of us were cold. The weather changed and it’s quite freezing now. Actually we have 5 degrees. We found out that at your place it’s 27 degrees and some of us are thinking about visiting you during winter :-)
We found out that English is the official language of Liberia and that there are many more.
Which language(s) do you speak besides English?
Among elderly people in Austria it’s not very common to speak more than German. Now this is changing a little as the children are learning at least English at school and sometimes a third language.
How is school in Liberia? Is there a compulsory education?
In Austria all children need to go to school from the age of 6 to 15 years. After nine years of school you can choose to continue until university-entrance-diploma or you start an apprenticeship. But sometimes it’s hart to find a place where you can be an apprentice to someone. Another problem is that boys and girls have very different wishes which profession they want to learn. Most of the girls want to become hairdressers, salesperson or clerk. This is a problem because those are the jobs with small salaries and little prestige. So when they are older and married thy often depend on their husbands who earn more or they are single moms and it’s hard to earn a living.
Some of you are Business Women and you wrote us you have children. Who is looking after them while you are out on the streets?
We saw your president on TV! She seems to be an amazing woman!! In Austria there are some women in politics but it’s far from sharing 50:50 between men and women. There is a discussion if government should do a quota regulation to force the parties to let participate more women. We are supporting this idea but we don’t think it will happen.
It’s great to learn you have a palava-hut! And we are looking forward to having the photos from Brigitte a lot!! Birgit showed us a photo from a palava-hut in Mali which we found especially interesting because it’s so low-ceilinged. Supposedly this is to avoid great conflicts as you can’t jump up in anger without hitting your head.
If this is true we think it’s a good concept! :-)
Birgit told us that the women who founded palaver-connected in Graz were thinking about a place like your palava-hut (for discussions, meetings, …) when they chose the name for the Internetcafé. Generally the café at palaver (not the computers) is open to men also (altought there is rarely one), but it’s first of all the women who meet and use the room. Sometimes it’s not easy to find a good way of communication as there are very different women meeting but this is on the other hand also kind of interesting. We are always trying to find solutions which fit for almost all women. There are some men and women here who think it’s not necessary for women to have a space on their own, but to us it’s very important.
No one of us has ever been to Africa except Morocco and Tunisia and as we stayed in hotels we don’t know much about peoples lifes there. Only Birgit travelled a little in Niger and Senegal. She told us some stories and we wondered if there are similarities to Liberia. How is cooking? Do you use gas, wood or coal? Is there a traditional meal?
On march 22cd is “World Water Day”. The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.
At palaver-connected provision is made for several activities to call the attention of the people on that important subject.
Austria is blessed with rich resources of drinking-water but nevertheless it’s important to care about this vital good and not to waste it for farming, pools, …
We are so used to always have clean water running out of the water-tap going to the sewer that it’s sometimes easy to forget how valuable it is.
There will be an exhibition at palaver-connected with drawings from women from many different countries which show their approach to water. Lots of articles are ready to be read by the women, …
It would be great being able to tell the women here YOUR perspective on water, like it would be a “real true story” from friends.
How is the situation concerning water at your place? Is there a difference between big cities and rural areas? Is there enough water for everyone? Is it potable or do you need to prepare it? How is the access to water?
So, once more we have many questions and are looking forward excitedly to having your news!
Best wishes from Austria!
Iris, Erika, Birgit
We are so exited to hear about the first message from you. As you will see by reading this e-mail - we (the women who meet here in Monrovia) do not have the Internet. But we know how the Website looks like, because when Brigitte was here in August she introduced us to the site.
As you can see the meetings in Liberia started - and the communication is not always that easy. I have a group in Monrovia and a group in Harper. With the group in Harper I meet in person and we are meeting once a month (on Saturday) and we had our first premeeting on October 13th, 2009. Our first meeting in Harper will be the comming sunday.
So the procedure will be as follow:
# whenever the group in Monrovia meets they will give me a call and tell me what to write on the blog. I also promised them to call Eve (she is my contact person to Monrovia) if there is an answer from Austria. When I met the group from Monrovia - I showed them some pictures about Austria and we were talking a little bit about the project. They showed interest - so I asked them to form a group and report about their regular meetings.
# for the group in Harper - we are starting with 5 women - but this group is not closed and it can be more in November. We are together in Harper and when we meet I can show them the blog - because I have Internet access and as a group we will try to formulate what we are going to write in the blog.
In this post I am answering your first post from the group in Monrovia. They were meeting on October 5th and I just got a call from them (or I just called them this weekend to inform me about their outcome in their meeting and what I should write on the blog).
This is the first answer from your post in September 2009. There is one group of women meeting in Monrovia (they meet about 3-4 times (that what they told me) - but don't have a fixed schedule). But the next time they will meet on November 4th, 2009).
Group Monrovia (Edena, Wilhemina, Eve,. Princess, Carina)
First meeting: Oct. 3rd, 2009
2nd meeting: Nov. 4th, 2009
3rd meeting: December 2009 (day is not scheduled)
Group Harper (Cora, Christiana, Philomena, Vivian, Lesole meetings with Brigitte)
Premeeting: October 13th, 2009
1st meeting in Harper: October 17th, 2009
after that we will meet once a month (always on Saturday)
This is our first meeting (no this is the summary of our first meeting from October 5th, 2009). We are a group of women from Monrovia (Brigitte told us about the Blog) and we want to answer some of the questions from Angelika, Birgit, Elke, Iris and Maria. We met private at Carinas place - we will meet 3 times and everytime we will meet at a different place.
We are not from an organization. We met Brigitte at the Women's Colloquium in March that we had in Monrovia and since that time we sometimes talk on the phone. We are Business Women (we sell food and other goods on the streets). Brigitte will provide you with some pictures where she pictured us doing business at the colloquium. We don't even have Internet access. We have some Internet Cafes here in Monrovia, but we are not able to use the Internet, since we don't even know about a computer. But we just discuss some issues here in our group and we will than talk to Brigitte on the phone and she promised to put it in the Internet - and also she will call us when we get an answer.
We are Edena, Wilhemina, Eve,. Princess, Carina. We are all age 27 - 35 years.
Edena, age 27, married, 2 children (age 12 and 8)
Wilhemina, age 30, married, 3 children (age 8, 4, 5)
Eve age 31, 1 child (age 12)
Princess, age 35, married, 4 children (age 15, 14, 12, 8)
Carina, age 32, married, 3 children (age 15, 12, 8)
We also talked about Austria and found out that actually we do not know anything about it, beside the facts that Brigitte told us (when we meet her at the Women's Colloquium and and in August 28, 2009 in Monrovia). She also showed us some pictures and we are greatful, so we got some insights from Austria. We even saw one picture from the Palava-Internetcafe where you wrote that you were meeting in (Brigitte showed us 2 pictures of that Palava - one inside and one outside). So now we have an idea where you are meeting at. Brigitte will send a picture to you so you can see one example where we are meeting in Monrovia. We - who sit in the group together - know each other, because we sell at the same street and talk during the time we work.
We also have something that is called a Palava-Hut (we asked Brigitte to put it on the Website). Our palava-hut is used, wen we have difficulties or problems or conflicts. Than we sit together and try to find a solution. But sometimes we as women are not included so much in the palava-hut meetings. It is more used by the elders in the community.
One of your questions is - you want to know what our city looks like. Monrovia has about 1 Million Inhabitants. (Liberia has about 3.5 Million people). Monrovia itself is quite a dirty city. It is a city with a lot of cars, a lot of traffick, very loud. People are poor here. Liberia had a 14 year civil war. This war ended in 2003. Liberia has a female president - her name is: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Her office is in Monrovia.
Those are things we discussed at our first meeting. We are looking forward to get a call from Brigitte - whenever there are some news from you.
Best wishes from Monrovia,
Edena, Wilhemina, Eve,. Princess, Carina
After getting to know each other we talked about what we know about Liberia and found out it’s very little but we are very interested to learn from you!
There are so many questions!
We want to learn from our every-day’s life, some of us are keen on getting recipes. We want to know if you have children or about your work, what your city is like, about women’s rights in Liberia, …
But firstly we’d like to introduce ourselves a little to give you an idea to whom you are talking:
Angelika is 32, married and has a baby-son. She used to work as elementary school teacher but is staying at home now with the baby. At present she has no time for hobbies as the little is very demanding but if there rests some time she loves horse riding.
Birgit is 31, married and coordinator of palaver-connected womens’s café. She loves travelling in West Africa and is keen on going to Liberia too one day.
Erika is 32 and a psychologist. She is interested in religion, reading and being in the nature.
Iris is 21 and studying education science and gender studies. She has a dog and is sharing an apartment with 2 friends. She loves cooking and always looking for new recipes.
Maria is 57, married, has a grown-up daughter and has already retired from her job. She loves reading and gardening and taking a walk.
We are looking forward to exchanging opinions with you a lot!
Angelika, Birgit, Elke, Iris, Maria