James Yarsiah, the founder of Rice and Rights Foundation (RRF), met me on the street and ushered me up to his office. His Monrovia-based staff was waiting, eager to tell me about the exciting work they are doing to help rebuild Liberia after years of civil war.
Their programs focus on two main areas: literacy and democracy. They focus on the rural areas of the country, which are often ignored by other non-profits in the country. As James explained, “If things are going to change, there needs to be participation by the rural people who up to now have been so left out of this peace process. They have been the object of change, not the participants.” RRF’s goal is that by the end of their program, rural citizens will hold their leaders accountable to provide the services that they need in their communities.
They work toward this goal through two ways: teaching literacy to women and encouraging democratic participation by citizens. They told me of some of their successes so far:
- I heard about the women who can now read the directions they get from the hospital;
- Saw pictures of citizens who for the first time were able to address issues of corruption directly with their local leaders;
- Read about the women in their literacy program had recently been accepted for loans to start their own business – something they had never been able to do before, literacy being a requirement for the loans.
When James told me about his local Community Peace Committees – made up of 1/3 women, 1/3 youth, and 1/3 elders – I asked how the traditional leaders were adjusting to this new structure. The Community Peace Committees were created to deal with small conflicts that arose in the villages – a role that traditional leaders had previously held. He said that there were some conflicts at first, but they had talked with the local community and determined a system where both the traditional chiefs and the village councils could co-exist.
Rice and Rights Foundation seems to be filling a necessary gap in areas of the country that are badly in need of services. And on June 16, GlobalGiving allows your support to go even further with a 50% match on all donations up to $1000 per donor!
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