I traveled today from Seattle to San Francisco to New York to Accra, Ghana and, finally to Monrovia, Liberia. I am with a group of incredible women who are here to learn about the situation for women and girls in Liberia, the first African country to elect a woman President.
Upon arrival, we drove an hour through the countryside to reach our hotel in the city. The landscape reminds me of Ghana over 22 years ago, where my husband and I traveled on our honeymoon. There are many concrete structures partly finished, abandoned homes without roof or windows overgrown with weeds, and many billboards standing just the bones, no advertisement. It is hot, 90 degrees or so, and hazy from the periodic burning grasses on the way into town. Freshly painted green Heineken buildings welcome worn neighbors. A few stands sell carvings or concrete block, a woman pushes a wheelbarrow full of coconuts.
As we enter the city, I notice that the nicer homes are behind walls topped by rolls of barbed wire. Some have ornate gates made of painted metal. We pass Save the Children and it looks like a prison back home, a fortress. Many kids here play soccer in open grass fields with no goals and the Sports Center has a buff soccer player advertising cigarettes. One vertical billboard advertises Heineken (who seems to have a monopoly here) with the tag line, “Open Your World.”