By: Ralph Cherbo Geeplay
Reconstructing Liberia in the aftermath of war is not just about physical infrastructures repairs; it is also about the Liberian family. What must not be overlook in the Liberian society today is that the Liberian family is disintegrating; the Liberian family is in crisis, according to analysts.
When you consider the Liberian family, it seems the simplest and trivial by comparison of issues on the table when you want to talk about reconstructing the physical costs the civil war has ruined on the Liberian society: the economy, education, electricity, brain drain, hospitals, bridges, roads, instituting good governance and rebuilding public and private buildings, etc.
Post war Liberia hurts from so many societal ills that reconstructing the country and finding and fixing all the trajectories that will put the nation back on the course to prosperity seems almost an impossible feat, and public policy it seems is not fully tuned to the problems that Liberia faces as far as the family is concerned.
Hence, the social stratums that should make the society function and hold are diminishing. It is safe to argue that the Liberian family was destroyed by the Liberian civil war says pundits, and this misfortune has had vary penalties for Liberian life, and it is there for all to see.
While unemployment is at its highest level, healthcare is either unavailable or unaffordable, corruption is rampant, the cost of tuition is high – too high an unemployed parent just cannot afford to send a child/children to school; the cost of food is too high also; crime is rampant with the justice system in shambles and life in Liberia for a typical Liberian family is dismal if not nonexistent. The two decades fracas that saw the country balkanized by warring parties has had a huge consequence in what has been a tragic state to the Liberian family.
The breakdown of the Liberian family can be attributed to many factors, but principally the mass displacement of families in the country and refugee camps around the sub region and the world during the war years account for the this community morass.
The Liberian civil war hurt Liberians, didn’t it? The effects are being felt everywhere, even now so today. As such, Liberians from all ethnic, political and religious persuasions must come together to rebuild the country – not fixing the problems the nation faces as far as the family is concerned could see worst still effects being wrecked on this important unit of society.
It is no secret observers say the post war nation grapples perversely with rapes, prostitution, corruption, armed banditry and mob justice, because the family structure has broken and rowdiness invasive, “that the Liberian family was dismembered by the civil war and rendered dysfunctional is not in question,” Wrote Emmanuel Dolo in September of 2008. He went on and lamented the shattering and suffering effects it has wrecked on Liberia by calling it “the corrosive effects,” which he also said was due to Liberia’s almost two decade’s long war. Dolo said current events in the nation “on human relationships across a broad spectrum justify these sentiments,” adding, “clearly, certain segments of the society were hit harder than others, and as a unit, the family experienced the most formidable jolt.”
What is also sad is that, the Johnson Sirleaf led Unity Party administration has done little to tackle these issues. Even the political opposition in the country has said little or nothing about the problems facing the Liberian family: The social stratum of the family has worsened and it is time for corrective actions, or else Liberia will continue to corrode in an abyss and lost in the values it seeks to bring order to the family. Policy needs to be directed at single mothers especially and young couples who are trying hard to raise families, analysts say.
Schools alone will not make students compete at the highest levels in the class room, parental participation is also necessary. Education has plummeted as is evident by the mass failures year in and out, and the poor reading and writing skills of students graduating high schools today is evident. Add all of these according to pundits, because the family has gone kaput. If the society lacks social cohesion and solidification in times when it is most needed, then the cursory observer must ask, when would this serious dilemma ever be addressed, and for how long will it be ignored?
Just as the family has broken down so has violence against women and children in the Liberian society increased, very sad indeed. When women and children are not protected in the Liberian life by men and boys, what kind of society do we think we would have cultured and nurtured for future generations. Liberian traditional laws are also discriminatory in nature and bias and have done little to sustain the pace of growth needed to breed the Liberian family in the 21lst century.
The nation’s customary laws are pigeonholes against women and are prejudicial. This issue must be looked into, it must be addressed. Liberia cannot remain a decent country and a civilized emerging democracy with such huge conflicts.
Teen pregnancies and early marriages still to a great regret do not help in building and rebuilding the family in Liberia. For example, in 2004, the United Nations estimated that thirty six percent of “girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. There has been a slight increase in the average age of first marriages in Liberia.” These are disapproving facts that must claim the attention of policy makers; the civic society must engage and bring pressure to bear on the national and local governments, so that resources are deployed to strengthen the Liberian family.
The nation’s political leadership and the religious communities and those aspiring for higher offices must work very hard to save the Liberian family, because the Liberian family is the most important unit of society; and its cohesiveness needed to cultivate an emerging social class of individuals from which the leaders of tomorrow will flow.