Liberia: Affected women plead for gov’t protection against mining companies
by TINA S. MEHNPAINE
Women from five mining-affected communities are demanding immediate action from the government to regain their rights to farmland, which have been voided by mining companies.
The women, who are members of the Natural Resource Women Platform (NRWP), Green Advocates International (GAI), and Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), accused mining companies of forcibly taking their land, polluting their water, and desecrating their traditional and cultural sites.
The women are from Sinoe, Margibi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, and Bomi counties. In a joint draft statement issued on October 4, after a one-day visit to Coboyah, Grand Cape Mount County, the women resolved that the government renegotiate concession agreements in their communities.
Accompanied by the African Gender and Extractives Alliance (WOMIN), a South African-based organization, and women from Cameroon, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, the visit was part of the Sub Regional Learning, Solidarity, and Exchange on the “Right to Say No” being implemented by WOMIN.
It was intended to share experiences on issues women in concessional areas are facing and how they are dealing with these challenges.
The delegates from the five African countries shared their experiences with their Liberian counterparts and provided insights on how they have been able to resist the violations of their rights by concession companies.
“After a solidarity and experience sharing visit, women from the six countries are jointly demanding urgent action from the Government of Liberia in protecting the rights of communities especially women in the affected communities,” the statement added.
According to the statement, women from Sinoe County land have been completely overtaken by Golden Veroleum, leaving them with no land to make farms. The statement claimed that women in Sinoe, Grand Bassa and Margibi counties have been deprived of their farming land by mining companies.
“With the actions of these concessionaires to take away the land and cause pollution to the water, the communities, mainly women, are finding it very difficult to survive. Many women from the five counties in Liberia wept bitterly while narrating their ordeala to the other women from West African countries that had come to see their plight.”
“A similar situation is taking place with the Liberian Agriculture Company in Grand Bassa County where nearly all the land is occupied by rubber trees. In the Bea Mountain concession area in Grand Cape Mount County, the situation is even worse where women in the affected communities appeared very depressed from the stress of traveling over long distances to get water and food for the family due to pollution of the major source of water with chemicals.”
The statement added that people in these affected Communities are left without any other source of livelihood because they depend on the land and water for farming, herbs, fishing and other purposes.
“Women who are caregivers are suffering and are the most impacted as they have to go out in search of food and water for the family thereby further exposing these women to abuse and violations of their human rights and dignity.”
Georgine Kengne, WOMIN, “Right To Say No” project Coordinator said “We are here because you started the fight,” said. “You started the struggle with the community and NGO and you have not yet satisfied with the response.”
She assured the women full support through awareness and empowered them to know their rights, and how to engage their companies.
“We want to assure you that it’s possible that this fight. We are coming to support what you have started here,” Kengne added.
The Liberian women along with their colleagues from the five countries call on the government to engage these concession companies to stop land grab, forceful, eviction of communities by concessionaires for mining activities, pollution, and the discharge of harmful mercury, cyanide, arsenic, iron, copper, nitrate, and sulfate.
Also, they want the government to address investments that negatively impacted the lives of communities due to the lack of applying Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the very beginning of the agreement.
Meanwhile, both the Liberian women and the delegates have called for a renegotiation of the concession agreements and put in place friendly environmental measures that will protect the communities as well as the biodiversity they have protected for decades. “An alternative livelihood for communities especially women embedded with the clear vision the communities have for development. The right to cultural and traditional practices and way of life; Involvement of women in all concession negotiations from five concessions counties.”