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Civic Education on the Rule of Law: Access to Justice in Liberia

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made education a top government priority.  In Liberia, many citizens lack basic knowledge about their fundamental rights and important changes in laws. Extensive civic education and opportunities for public participation in legal reform are essential for building lasting peace.

Current civil society partners include the following:

  • Bong Youth Association (BYA) and Rural Human Rights Activist Program (RHRAP). As an organization focused on involving youth in peacebuilding, BYA's activities include workshops on conflict resolution, voter and civic education, small-scale microfinance, and health and environmental education. BYA has partnered with RHRAP to conduct rule of law education with The Carter Center.The Center currently provides small grants and capacity-building support to civil society partner organizations that have roots in local communities - including women's groups, an interreligious group, youth groups, human rights groups, and drama clubs – to use drama, community forums, and radio programs to "tell the story" of the country's rule of law to rural Liberians. To date, this program has reached over 15,000 people.
  • Crusaders for Peace. Crusaders for Peace is led by Julie Endee, Liberia's cultural ambassador and traditional queen. With offices in Nimba County and headquarters in Monrovia, Crusaders for Peace raises awareness on issues through song and dance. This successful model has given Crusaders for Peace worldwide attention, and the organization has made numerous trips abroad, most recently to the United States and China. Crusaders for Peace educates people in Nimba County on the rule of law in partnership with The Carter Center. In addition, they record songs and messages for the Center's radio programming.
  • Flomo Theatre. Flomo Theatre is Liberia's most renowned theatrical and comedic troupe. The troupe has a strong radio presence; few things make Liberians smile quicker than mentioning Flomo Theatre. Since the 1980s, Flomo Theatre has been engaged in a range of projects to use their satirical skills to transform the social sphere. Flomo Theatre produces dramas, skits, and short messages for the Carter Center's radio programming as well as makes numerous appearances at related trainings conducted by the Center.
  • Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL).  IRCL builds coalitions between people of different religious faiths in order to address societal challenges.  Their initiatives include conflict resolution, child advocacy, and human rights and peace education. To assist with the Center's rule of law education project in Grand Gedeh County, IRCL utilizes its unique capability to mobilize religious leaders of all faiths.
  • Modia Drama Club. Operating in Bong County, Modia Drama Club uses dramatic techniques for public education campaigns on human rights and gender-based violence. Because of the high prevalence of illiteracy in the county, delivering messages through drama is particularly effective.
  • Southeastern Women Development Association (SEWODA). SEWODA is a regional organization based in Maryland County aimed at improving the living conditions of people in southeast Liberia, especially women and children. SEWODA's participation in the Center's rule of law education project is particularly important because of the prevalence of justice issues related to women's rights. SEWODA participated in the March 9-10 National Women's Colloquium as a featured partner of the Center.
  • Special Emergency Activity to Restore Children's Hope (SEARCH). SEARCH is based in Nimba County. SEARCH strives to create a free environment for the protection and participation of children in society, focusing on health and human rights issues.
  • Traditional Women United for Peace (TWUP). TWUP is led by influential traditional leader Mama Tumeh. Based in Lofa County, TWUP organizes agricultural projects to empower abused women. The Center educates the women who come to Mama Tumeh for help, further empowering them with knowledge of the rule of law.  These women then go on to serve as powerful voices within their communities. In addition, Mama Tumeh has taken a leadership role in discussing women's rights and harmful traditional practices within traditional women's groups at the national level.

The Carter Center places an emphasis on building the capacity of our partner organizations and on increasing their platforms to effect change. To this end, the Center has convened a number of meetings between government leaders at the Ministry of Justice and civil society representatives in which they openly discuss the challenges facing local people in obtaining justice. A U.S. law professor who observed the first of these dialogues called it "the purest form of democracy in action I have witnessed in years."

The Carter Center couples this village-level outreach with extensive radio education programming. The Center facilitates three radio programs: a Rule of Law Radio Hour, which highlights relevant issues and features a variety of notable guests, a County Attorney Half-Hour, during which county attorneys from across the country give updates on their activities and answer questions, and Access to Justice an educative call-in show that seeks to improve the rule of law in Liberia by increasing legal literacy. Both shows provide a forum for the government and judiciary to explain the law widely and for citizens to call in with their questions.

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Carter Center Photos (Click to enlarge)

The Carter Center, at the invitation of Liberia's Ministry of Justice, is helping close the country's domestic violence gap through local education programs.

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Carter Center staff, including those pictured above, have worked throughout Liberia since 2006 on the rule of law project.

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Through drama, people learn about how law relates to their traditional practices.  Here the local Sassywood man (or spiritual healer) shows how he can tell guilt and innocence by using shells in the traditional way.

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