PRISCILLA Singh is among the four women from the Pacific who on Thursday left for the bastion of women rights movement in the world — Liberia — to attend her postgraduate certificate in peacebuilding from the internationally recognised Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding of the Eastern Mennonite University from the US.
The seasoned trade unionist, women activist and politician is looking forward to travelling to this west African nation which has been hailed as a success in women rights and gender equality after its women fought tirelessly through the country’s many civil wars to earn respect and make headway in their national decision making processes.
Liberia is the first African country to have a woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who recently won the Nobel Peace prize with her fellow country woman Leymah Gbowee for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
«It is really inspirational because the women of Liberia have been successful in resolving the issues they faced. I have met the women from Liberia already.
«They have a very organised women’s movement and with their passive resistance approach, they have achieved a lot. And I believe that is very important. Achieving your objectives without being violent,» Singh said.
The former Suva City councillor said for the four women to receive their postgraduate certificate training in Liberia was not only symbolic but an inspiration she hoped would translate into positive results in her peacebuilding work as a board member of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Habitat for Humanity and the Nausori Rural Women Association.
«As far as I am concerned I have been doing peacebuilding already. I have walked the talk in getting more women more involved but this trip for me is going over to gather more tools, equipping myself and enhancing myself knowing different ways in dealing with issues, especially conflicts before continuing my work with the women here.
«The trip will equip us very well because we are going to an area, a country which has gone through many conflicts,» Singh said.
The 2006 general election candidate says she has through various peacebuilding initiatives seen the need to change the approach on working to resolve issues or conflicts in our society and believes that the Liberian women have proven that passive or nonviolent resistance is one of the best ways to do it.
«Also peacebuilding is about giving equal opportunities to aggrieved parties to work on resolving issues. Women here in the Fiji context have led the way in terms of showing people in authority that there are peaceful ways of resolving conflicts,» Singh said.
Singh will be joined by her fellow Fijian Alita Waqabaca alongside Jerolie Belabule and Philma Zaku from the Solomon Islands.
In Liberia the four will be co-hosted by the staff of the Leymah Gbowee’s Peace Foundation at the national capital of Monrovia.
Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding (PCP) executive director, Koila Costello-Olsson, said this would be an opportunity for the participants from the Pacific because they will possibly meet with the women who were part of the movement that successfully advocated for and lobbied for peace in Liberia.
«The efforts of Liberian women for peace are well known to women leaders here in Fiji and in the region. These were well documented in the book and the documentary Pray the Devil back to Hell and provides much inspiration to the current participants,» Costello-Olsson said.
In the week-long training, the four will be joined by other women from the African region in the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership program which is being run jointly by PCP and EMU with funding from the Bread for the World organisation.
Costello-Olsson says a second group of Pacific women is expected to join their peacebuilding program next month.