Monday, September 1, 2008

Leaving Liberia (or, "Why Liberia? Part 2")

After 2 short months, my time in Liberia came to an end, but not without an incredible farewell party hosted by the Ministry of Gender and Development!

I was leaving the next day, and Jenny (the intern from Princeton) and a woman named Paavani (United Nations Development Programme) were leaving soon, so the Ministry held us a goodbye party that I will never forget.

There were signs all over the conference room, wishing us well. I was overcome with emotion when I saw and read them. There were a series of beautiful speeches, we were given many really generous gifts, there was a great meal, and then lots of dancing. Then we, ourselves, were asked to give farewell speeches.

In my speech, after all of my thank you's, I referred to one of my first blog entries in which described the question I had been getting: "Why Liberia" and my 6 answers. As you may recall, I listed:

1) Historic moment for Liberia and I want to witness and contribute
2) Leadership of President Johnson Sirleaf
3) Leadership at the Ministry of Gender and Development
4) My love of West Africa!
5) How well the work complemented my graduate studies
6) Opportunity to live/work with "Team Liberia"

My farewell speech continued with four new reasons for going to Liberia, reasons I never could have known without being there for a summer, but those that made it an incredible summer.

7) Wonderful new "friends and family" at the Ministry of Gender and Development -- my colleagues were terrific people and great to get to know.

8) Realizing how dedicated the Ministry of Gender and Development was to their mandate and mission. From empowering rural women to lead and distributing rain boots to female farmers, to running community youth parties on the holidays to keep children safe and raising public awareness about gender issues, this is an organization that has an important mission and is committed to meeting and exceeding it.

9) The work was absolutely exhilarating and made me realize that I want to devote much of my professional life to international development, gender issues (e.g., girls' and women's empowerment, addressing sexual and gender based violence), and leadership.

10) Jenny -- the most unexpected and amazing colleague and friend. It was a privilege to work by her side all summer.

I will deeply miss Liberia, its people, and the Ministry of Gender and Development, but I hope to be back.... soon.