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NARDA Concludes Open Space Technology Training 

By Grace Q. Bryant  

The New African Research and Development Agency (NARDA) over the weekend concluded its two-day training on open space technology that is used to derive ideas from the youths and women in terms of their involvement in politics.

The training which was held in Congo Town at Calabash brought together women and youth groups across the country to help decrease violence during election.

Giving the overview of the program, the Executive Director of NARDA, Lancedell Mathews, said, “The amount of youths here today are over 50 and we have network in five different counties, including Nimba, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Bong  and Rivercess.”

The organization was established in 1987 and this idea was from the World Bank that the physical discipline of government was the main issue they needed to tackle, like the areas of service delivery, education and government found themselves in a tight corner and all the NGO’s were too at the time. 

“In 1985 the decree was lifted and had a big meeting with USAID and other organizations present and NARDA was made the secretariat and since 1987, therefore has been working with Liberian NGO’s basically setting membership and controls 20 national NGO’s divided into 4 segments; food security, climate, health and sanitation and governance peace and democracy,” he explained.

“What is important about these conferences basically is the application of the open space technology that is used to derive ideas from the youths and women in terms of their involvement in politics,” he added.

He explained, “We have a long list of things that could happen and we prefer to hear it from the people’s mouths and this conference is the collection of people from all around the country to come and share with us their own ideas and their own conversations they are having regarding politics and their thoughts in terms of how we can deal with some of the issues that are coming up during this electioneering period.”

According to him, the prompted idea of the engagements is that NARDA as an organization has numerous members, adding that twenty National members and members of 72 in the 5 national counties are based.

“We have been having issues with youth involvement, youth violence and in fact one of our partners in Buchanan works with youths in difficult circumstances (Zogos) in terms of maintaining peace and engaging them in civil meetings,” he expressed.

He revealed, “This year is elections so last year, we were thinking about how to prepare youths for this coming elections and since we have already started this open space technology, we will work with them through this open space and in fact from what I’m seeing here right now, I’ll advocate that we do it regionally, where youths in every region can come up with their issues and agenda without having a fixed agenda for discussion.” 

“There is this tendency of the youths giving their votes for money and that is an integrity problem that politicians are actually buying votes that are critical and it has become a popular thing in our society and they cannot do away with or minimize that because it has to do with their integrity as well. 

He concluded that NARDA is committed to provide new ideas and also work with women organizations particularly Lofa that involves in agriculture and others. 

However, 52 women across the county in their resolutions pledged to stop moving from one political party to another and also talk to children to stay away from violence.

“We pledge to create awareness on electoral conflict among women; we pledge to respect each other during the political activities and be civil in our approach to each other during elections. We pledge to break the fear in political and local leadership and we pledge to carry out early preparation of women candidates in order to achieve,” the women groups pledged.

In their recommendation, they are calling on government and relevant civil society to carry on awareness on violence against women during elections and  more engagements be made with traditional leaders on women’s participation in political activities and this engagement be supported by civil society and government agencies.

Women also urged the NEC to conduct intensive awareness on the new elections law (the 30% threshold) at the county levels and the government should ensure total implementation of this threshold by political parties increasing women’s political or local participation in decision-making.

 Meanwhile, the youth groups also pledged to exhibit political tolerance at all levels during the 2023 elections and create awareness (with funding from government and partners) among ourselves on the effects of voters trucking, hate speech, and disinformation during the electoral period.

“We pledge to be issue-driven, void of party mandate and financial influence during the 2023 elections and to create a safe space for women’s participation in elections,” youth groups maintained.

Adding Government of Liberia, through the National Elections Commission, institute policies and strategies that prevent electoral violence during the three stages of the electoral process: pre-election, during election, and post-election period.

Recommending that the Government and its partners ensure equal rights and opportunities for young people’s participation in election and the issue of trucking during elections be totally eradicated and stringent measures be taken against any one or group caught doing trucking.

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