Post-War Rebuild of Liberia

Clip from film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell

The Republic of Liberia became a country torn apart by the civil war that started on Christmas Eve in 1989. This civil war did not end until 2003, it took the women from Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, to peacefully stand up and demand for peace. The peace they sought was not for themselves but for the raping, abuse, starvation and death of children to cease.

As a UN Humanitarian Aid worker, I have just been sent to Liberia to provide aid to women, men and children in surrounding IDP camps. There are many issues that need to be resolved, however, before any action should be taken, my team will need to observe and understand what we need to do to help these displaced Liberians. Charli Carpenter once said, “Gender is a lens for uncovering hidden power relations.” By observing and assessing, my team will have a better grasp of how to better serve the Liberians, as men and women have different needs.

Photo of a Liberian IDP Camp
Credits to Blogger Eva

According to Mary-Wynne Ashford in The Impact of War on Women, there are many post-war issues that need attention as the violence is slow to change once the war ends. She also mentions that, “weapons are easily acquired, jobs and food scarcity results in agitation, combatants suffer form PTSD and sexually assaulted women may have a hard time re-integrating into the communities.” These major issues are long-term projects that will require the government and outside aid to help accomplish. Disarmament of weapons, creating jobs to jumpstart the economy, providing food aid to alleviate the food scarcity, PTSD care to the combatants, and guidance to sexually assaulted women are all needed as basics for providing aid in Liberia.

Photo of Child Soldiers of Liberia
Credits to Blogger Eva

The people living in IDP camps provide the most valuable stories of their experience as it is the best gauge of their needs, both mental and physical. According to UK Immigrant Magazine, Theo Neewrayson was a Liberian refugee during the conflict (link to article). He speaks about his experiences as Liberian refugee and how he is giving back to the Ivorians refugees from Côte d’Ivoire, by helping them out as they helped him out. He has said because he was a refugee himself, he knows what war trauma and depression feels like, and group discussion sessions is a good way to cope with conflict-related trauma. The group members are able to speak about their experiences and shows that they are not alone. These group discussions will provide mental health help for combatants with PTSD and women who have been sexually assaulted. Child soldiers are another group of combatants that will require a lot of help mentally and physically, no matter what they have done. In the film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, one of the women said that they had to learn to forgive these child soldiers as it would be impossible to move on without forgiving them.

Photo of Theo Neewrayson
Credits to UK Immigrant Magazine

“Work also improves ones mental health. It gives you energy and makes you feel part of a society.” said Theo Neewrayson. Theo is the perfect role model of what UN Humanitarian Aid Workers needs to be and do. We need to increase the quality of life of people living in IDP camps by providing them with a safe and conforting environment to live in, food, medical attention and work so they can start sustaining themselves. In order to prevent cultural problems from arising, UN Humanitarian Aid Workers entering Liberia must learn about Liberia such as: Liberian customs, brief history and culture.

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Interview with a UN Humanitarian Aid Worker

Tessa, Zack and I reunited to create this short video as part of our assignment to address the United States feminist communities regarding women living in war/conflict zones. In this video, we made a mock video interview of a UN Humanitarian Aid Worker who is currently stationed in Liberia. I hope you enjoy it!

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Accessibility in NYC

Credits to Access Appraisals Ltd.

Credits to Access Appraisals Ltd.

On Friday, while waiting for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), I was standing next to a group of people. This group consisted of two women (one was sitting in a wheelchair) and a man. I later gathered that this woman in the wheelchair’s name is Helen, the man’s name is Nicki. However, it was not Helen that interested me, but Helen’s sister. Helen’s sister was on the phone with someone when I was trying to figure out her accent. During my quest to figure out her accent, I began to unintentionally eavesdrop on her one-sided conversation. What I learned from the conversation was that Nicki was in town visiting Helen, therefore, the trio have been traveling into Manhattan daily. The most interesting part of the whole conversation was when Helen’s sister said [to the person over the phone], “I’m going to write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg about this, we all have to be activists right?” She was talking about elevators and accessibility for wheelchairs, as Helen was sitting in one.

Helen’s sister sparked my thoughts of New York City’s accessibility. Here is the most up to date subway map. Did you know that there are not many wheelchair accessible subway stops in New York City? This means people with disability having to take alternative routes to circumvent subway stops that do not suffice wheelchair accessible patrons. If it normally takes someone 30 minutes to travel from point A to point B, then a wheelchair user would have a longer to travel time for the same distance. Take the 6th train’s 68th Street – Hunter College subway stop for example, is NOT wheelchair accessible. The closest wheelchair accessible stop around the 68th Street station is the F train stop on 63rd street.

Although it may be hard to get around NYC just solely using the subway if you are in a wheelchair, there are other options to use instead. For example, all the New York City buses are wheelchair accessible or using a wheelchair accessible taxi. There are a lot of online resources one can utilize to navigate through New York City such as MTA’s TripPlanner+ or MTA’s special section on Accessibility. The NYC official guide also has their own section on Accessibility. In addition a website called, Accessible NYC showcases easily accessible attractions within New York City.

Even though there are many alternative options to the subway for wheelchair users, New York City needs to create more wheelchair accessible stations. Helen’s sister said that we all have to be activists as that is how social injustices are made aware to the public. Shelby Knox, Director of Organizing, Women’s Rights for Change.org, said that the biggest danger of our generation is that we are taught to be equal, therefore, we think each of the obstacles we face is individual. Therefore, don’t wait for the world to change but to strive to help change the world.

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Sex-ed, Health Class, and More.

Consecutively for two years in middle school, I remember being dropped off with the girls in my class at the auditorium for “girl talk.” This “girl talk” consisted of: talking about our bodily change, what to do about our periods, and free packages (consisted of pads, tampons, and leaflets). I think the boys got the same talk except without any “freebies.”

In high school we were required to take gym class every year except for one fall/spring term in our junior year. The one term off from the gym replaced by a required health class. From “health class” in high school, two things that I remembered were watching a lot of True Life on VHS recording and watching Super Size Me (Link to Doc). Sex ed. was covered, however, I only vaguely remember it being handouts, reading said handouts, and discussing a little bit about it. The handouts were about the differences between men and women body parts. The discussion was about the effectiveness of contraceptive use, ranging from “pulling out” to abstinence. Also a brief discussion on what is safe-sex and abstinence being the most effective way. Sex ed. was taught in one class period.

Another exposure to “sex ed” was biology class in 9th grade, where my teacher showed us Miracle of Life. His approach was quite scarring as he would rewind it once the baby and umbilical cord is out. Therefore I saw it several times where the baby comes out part way and shoots back up into the vagina due to my teacher’s rewinding. It was truly wince worthy, mortifying and absolutely horrific. I watched this right after my lunch period while peeking through my fingers…

You may be wondering what all this is about? Well, above, is my public school education repertoire of sex-ed/health. My fellow blogger, Sarah’s post titled Mississippi Blues, gives a brief explanation of her experiences with sex ed at a all-girls’ Catholic high school.

After watching the documentary, The Education of Shelby Knox, it made me sit back and re-analyze my education on sex education provided by the public schools. This documentary made me compare my education on sex education with Lubbock’s. I gained more knowledge from my public schools than the teens in Lubbock, however, the NYC sex education was still severely lacking. Last year, New York City introduced a new mandate requiring public middle and high schools to teach sex education (NYT Article). According to Shelby Knox, “we can never have enough sex education because we have far, far too little of it now.”

During the making of the documentary, teachers in Lubbock were only allowed to say “abstinence is the only way to prevent teen pregnancy and STIs” or else they are at risk to possibly lose their jobs. At the same time, students in netherlands begin their education on sex education in primary school at the age of six. In the BBC News article titled Netherlands: Let’s Talk About Sex, it talks about how the Netherlands have the lowest teen pregnancy rate in Europe.

Children are often exposed to sex through different cartoons, TV shows or movies. However, these shows or movies do not talk about safe sex. So is it better for sex education to start at a young age, like learning another language? My answer? Yes.

Link to Shelby Knox’s website: http://shelbyknox.com/

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Hair, Hair and MORE Hair!

(song is: I Am Not My Hair ft. Akon by India.Arie)

Natural v. Styled. Long v. Short. Curly v. Straight. Dyed v. Not Dyed. Hair. It is part of our bodies, but can also be considered an artwork or an entity of its own. However, hair is more noticed by some people than others. Sometimes how kept a person’s hair can determine their personality or how well one dresses. Did you know during the London 2012 Olympics Gabby Douglas was criticized for her hair? Tiya Miles writes an article for CNN titled, Opinion: Why focus on Gabby Douglas’ hair?, which discusses how there was a spotlight on Gabby’s hair while also basking in her win of Gold.

While watching the re-run of the Gymnastic events, I was focused on Team USA’s routine and performance. However, I did unconsciously observe each gymnasts’ hairstyle. What I am having trouble wrapping my head around is the fact that there was a major discussion on Gabby Douglas’ hair at the time she is also receiving her Olympic medals. I know that haircare is important, however, do women truly need to mutilate their hair to adhere to a standard that the hegemonic society has set?

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