Then and Now: Looking Back at a Decade of Girl-Fueled Activism in Liberia
September 05, 2019 | Kaitlin Chandler Brooks and Maryem Torabi | Ms. Magazine
Women leaders around the world are transforming their own families, communities and countries by standing up and raising their voices for girls’ and women’s rights. And women like them have been leading this kind of change for generations.
Rise Up invests in these leaders and their vision for change by strengthening their advocacy capacity to advance systemic, national-level change through improved laws, programs and funding and eventually shift behaviors and norms. We activate women and girls to transform their lives, families and communities for a more just and equitable world through investment in local solutions, strengthening leadership and building movements.
Since 2009, our powerful network of over 500 leaders has directly benefited 7 million girls, youth and women—advocating for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million people in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the U.S. And as we celebrate 10 years of global impact for girls and women, we can’t help but look back at two Rise Up leaders, from the beginning of our journey together, and reflect on a decade of their impactful work in Liberia.
Rise Up Leaders Aisha Cooper Bruce (left) and Rosana Schaack (right).
In 2010, Rosana Schaack, Executive Director of Touching Humanity In Need of Kindness (THINK), met Aisha Cooper Bruce, Program Director for Social Empowerment at Helping Our People Excel (HOPE), through Rise Up’s program in Liberia. Rise Up selected the two women to be part of our first cohort of Liberian leaders; at our week-long Advocacy and Leadership Accelerator, both women learned, alongside an international cohort of leaders from Ethiopia and Malawi, how to develop effective advocacy strategies, mobilize resources and engage girls and decision-makers in their work.
During the Rise Up convening, these visionary leaders realized that they shared a mutual interest in Liberia’s Children’s Act—and could leverage one another’s expertise to maximize their chances of successfully advocating for passage of the law.
The Children’s Act would comprehensively address the needs of Liberian children in a major way. It would secure children’s rights to education, healthcare and inheritance, among many other significant provisions. It would mean that for the first time in the country’s history, every Liberian child would be guaranteed rights in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter. And it would specifically address many problems that disproportionately affect girls—including limited access to education, widespread sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices.
After the Accelerator, Rosana and Aisha submitted a joint proposal to implement their advocacy strategy for the passage of the Children’s Act, and Rise Up funded them. With our technical support, HOPE and THINK adopted a multi-faceted advocacy approach that included partnering with government ministries, meeting with senators, engaging with existing networks, training adolescent girls and youth activists and leveraging media to raise community awareness.