Ruth Sando Perry – Liberia

Linked with The Perry Center, and with ECOWAS – The Economic Community of West African States.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “As a mother, I consider the children and their future my biggest priority” … and: “We understand that there are difficult decisions to make when you are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. We are here to help young single mothers prepare for these changes. It is important that each young woman makes the decision that is best for herself and her unborn baby, so that each may live a full, productive, and loving life. The Perry Center is a quiet, reflective place with counselors experienced in helping to guide women in crisis pregnancy situation”. (full text).

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Ruth Sando Perry – Liberia

She works for the NGO Peace Now, for the Perry Center, and also with ECOWAS – The Economic Community of West African States.

Ruth Sando Perry (born 1939) was a lecturer at the University of Liberia before settling in Monrovia where she worked in a bank and created the NGO Peace Now. As the first female Head of State and Chairperson, Council of State of the Liberia National Transitional Government, Ruth Sando Perry presided over the disarmament of the warring parties in Liberia, repatriated and resettled refugees and displaced people, and conducted internationally acclaimed free and fair democratic elections.

The mission of the Perry center, established by Ruth Sando Perry, is to protect and promote the rights of children and to provide a sustained economy of development and activities for the construction of peace. Today, Ms. Perry continues to direct delegations through the conflict zones in Africa to ensure women’s voices are heard.

In 1990, the crisis was worsening and dominated all areas of political, socio-economic and even physical life. The instability started in 1989 with the Nimba rebellion, which quickly transformed itself in a destructive war that lasted seven years, caused the death of 200 000 people, made 2.5 million homeless as 250,000 others took refuge in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Nigeria. The majority of the victims were women and children. The impact of the war was felt in all these countries.

Unfortunately, women paid the heaviest price in the violence perpetrated by warring factions. Women were violated, harassed, beaten and stripped of their goods. Others were obliged to give themselves to the fighters to survive. On a cultural level, given that Liberia was still a patriarchal society where women are excluded from all process and decisions, this situation worsened with the law on weapons. By then, they had lost the respect and protection that traditional society granted them. They were not safe anymore.

The position of an already deteriorating economy was worsened by the war, the rapid degradation of infrastructures and the massive destruction of public and private goods. Worse, government institutions became ineffective.

The month of August 1997 was an historic time when, for the first time, a woman was elected unanimously as leader of an African government, by the authorities of the West African economic community, beating two other candidates. Ruth Sando Perry was installed as the third president of the state counsel and presided over the six state counsels in the transitional government of Liberia. To be the first woman head of state on the continent was an historic event,but to manage a country devastated by war was another challenge.

Ms. Perry had a very difficult mandate to execute. Following a sub-regional plan of the CDEAO (Communauté Économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest) / ECOWAS – The Economic Community of West African States, she faced this daunting mission with pride, guiding a country ravaged by seven years of civil war to peace. She has accomplshed this task with pride, dignity, self-sacrifice and also with a sense of satisfaction. She was gifted with this traditional capacity to direct and with a great degree of patience, wisdom and faith in God with which she faced the trials imposed by conflict resolution. She succeed where many failed and established the first peace framework in seven years, guiding the country to democratic elections.

The efforts of Ms. Perry brought about the installation of a peaceful environment; she insisted on disarmament and the repatriation of refugees. Today, these two problems are always at the center of attention in Liberia. Ms. Perry’s communication was marked by the entry of Liberian women into politics. Her coming to power gave rise to great hope through the country. She encouraged many groups of women to participate actively in politics. The movement ‘Initiative of Liberian Women’, of which she was a member, was heard at a national level. Activists like Ms. Brownell took avantage of and were supported by her presence as head of state. Other women leaders became confident that they needed to enforce acts.

When peace did not hold in Liberia, the period of 1997 neverthless was believed to have shown that anything is possible, for example: When Ms Perry headed the delegation of eight members of the Network of the Women of the River Mano (MARWOPNET), Liberia section, she ensured that women took part in the peace talks in Ghana. She said the delegation intended to lobby for leaders’ posts to be given to competent men and women, those who are deeply concerned about the future of the Liberian people and can apply peace recommended by women. The delegation was well planned, and organized a meeting to mobilize many women for the peace cause.

Because of the decisive role that MARWOPNET played between the different factions in the peace talks, the network was one of the signatories of the agreement as witness. During the two months they spent in Ghana, the delegation pressured the negotiations in order to push through their peace order which had been included in the plan of action adopted in May 2000 by the Women of the River Mano Region (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea). MARWOPNET was internationally reorganized in 2003 and received a United Nations Human Rights prize.

The role played by Ms. Perry for peace had already gone beyond national borders. She devoted herself to dividing her experience with the women of the Mano region, and with those all over Africa, in Benin in Somalia. In an effort to increase the role of women of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi in negotiations, she was at the head of an important delegation of eminent African women members of the AWPD (Committee of the African Women for Peace and the Development). She continues today to educate people of developing countries with the intention of increasing awareness on the problems of peace, gender and security. Ms. Perry currently occupies the post of African President of Balfour at the research center of the University of Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States of America. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).

Read: Peace Corps Online (The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers). You can go on by clickinv on any internal link, mainly for articles, as for exemple the two following: this article, or this article.

Read: First African woman head of state.

Read: UNMIL welcomes NGO report on sexual abuse.

links:

Contemporary Africa database, and on its web: Ruth Sando Perry;

Ogi gives Liberia a sporting chance.

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