The event took place at Jimmy Jolocon High School situated along the Somalia Drive and brought together 15 secondary schools in the Gardnerville Township together with 25 contestants. Her Excellency Lena Nordström, Ambassador of Sweden accredited near Monrovia delivered the keynote address.
In addition, Honorable Ciata Armah Stevens, Assistant Minister and Special Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs alongside Honorable Florence Gbagbe-Dukuly, Deputy Director for Administration of the Liberia Institute for Public Administration motivated and cautioned girls to believe in themselves and prioritize education. Other guests included Madam Elizabeth Dolo, Programm Officer of Kvinna till Kvinna coupled with some parents of the contestants.
Ambassador Lena Nordström recounted her inspirational early childhood desire to speak out. She narrated how she participated and won a speak competition at the age of eight. The Swedish Ambassador outlined tips on public speak and urged girls not to be ashamed of speaking out anywhere they find themselves.
The Swedish diplomat admonished girls to find their voices and speak out about issues affecting them without fear or favor. “You don’t have to be silent on issues that are affecting you or hindering you from achieving your dream and aspiration. You need to believe in yourself and work towards everything you want to accomplish in life. Everything wouldn’t be easy, but your desire to success must be unending” Ambassador Nordström asserted.
Speaking earlier, Stephen B. Lavalah, found and executive director of YES revealed that the Liberian society places extra burdens on girls. He said “Girls are often responsible to fresh water, prepare breakfast, get the children ready for school, clean the household, wash the dishes, and make up the beds; before ever thinking about going to school in the morning. Right after school, they have to pass in the market to buy food, hurry home to cook, wash the dirty clothes, and pick their siblings out from school.”
The youth leader disclosed that many people in Liberia put fear in girls from reaching their full potential. Some people encourage girls to be breadwinners for the family. And, a considerable number of people simply fail to provide girls with the similar opportunity like they do for boys.
Meanwhile, Lavalah has proposed the passage of a legislation that calls for free education for girls across the country, instead of the enacting the Gender Parity bill into law. According to him, the Gender Parity bill will only create jobs for a few handful of educated women and girls who he believe are somewhat desperate for political power. However, he wants to proponents of the bill direct their energy to addressing the educational and economic needs of women and girls.
“With free education for girls, our girls’ minds will be developed to compete with boys. They will become engineers to connect our roads and bridges, doctors to take care of the sick, agriculturalists to help us grow our own food, business tycoons and entrepreneurs to enable us to compete and surpass foreign businesses, and educationalists to ensure no child is left behind” the young advocate noted.
For her part, Honorable Florence Gbagbe-Dukuly, Deputy Director for Administration of the Liberia Institute for Public Administration delineated challenges facing girls in Liberia and proffered solutions to curtailing problems. She stressed the need for girls to take their education very seriously in order to be competitive in the nearest future.
In brief remarks, Madam Elizabeth Dolo, Programme Officer of Kvinna till Kvinna pointed out that the Speak Out Girls Speech Competition enhances the capacity of girls in promoting their self-worth, sense of belonging and resiliency.
“We believe that girls have a unique ability to change the lives of those around them once they are given the opportunity to become involved in activities that enhance their competencies, connections, character, confidence, self-esteem and contribution to society” the Kvinna till Kvinna official indicated.
The Chief Judge, Emmanuel Dolaken announced the results of the competition. 18-year-old Student J. Blio Brownell of the Seventh Day Adventist Revelation High School senior class who spoke on Early Marriage won the first place of LS35, 000.00.
Student D. Sarah M. Sumo of the twelfth grade attending the Seventh Day Adventist Revelation High School walked away with the second place prize of LS15,000.00. Her speech centered on Teenage Pregnancy. While 16-year-old Linda M. Pratt of the Jimmy Jolocon High School eleven grade earned the third place prize of L$10,000.00. She spoke on Girls and Education.
Speak Out Girls Speech Competition is designed to harness the enthusiasm, imagination and innovation of girls in lending their voices to raise issues affecting them and provide amicable solutions. It also aims to facilitate a unique platform that deepens girls understanding about personality development skills such as self-awareness, self-confidence, self-esteem, problem-solving, persuasive skills.
The program helps girls nurture capacity to make informed decisions and smart choices. It inspires people of all ages and gender to listen and learn from girls and take positive action about their challenges in achieving the full potential and measure of happiness.