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In Liberia, Zwedru’s traditional leaders and Spotlight Initiative unite to eradicate female genital mutilation, marking a pivotal cultural shift.

Digital painting of Liberian leaders and Spotlight Initiative representatives in a meeting, showcasing traditional attire and a collaborative atmosphere in Zwedru.
Traditional leaders and Spotlight Initiative members engage in a crucial meeting under the trees of Zwedru symbolizing unity and progress

By Darius Spearman (africanelements)

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Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Liberia – In a groundbreaking move, the Traditional Chiefs and Elders of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, have allied with the Spotlight Initiative, aiming to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Eastern Liberia. This partnership is a notable stride in aligning traditional authority with global human rights efforts.

Dedicated Leaders Spearheading Change

Chief Wilfred Garh, 75, and Ma Rebecca Yaoh, 63, are at the forefront of this transformative journey. Chief Garh, a member of the National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia, shares his transformative insight:

“Growing up, I believed in the power of traditional practices. However, training with Spotlight Initiative revealed that some of these practices were, in fact, harmful” (Spotlight Initiative).

Similarly, Ma Yaoh’s shift from an FGM practitioner to an advocate for change and agriculture symbolizes a profound community shift. She recounts:

“The training program opened my eyes to the harm of FGM. Now, I inspire other women leaders to follow this path of positive change” (United Africa Royal Assembly).

Spotlight Initiative: A Catalyst for Change

Launched in 2017, the Spotlight Initiative, a collaborative effort between the European Union and the United Nations, has been instrumental in this cultural transformation. Their focus on education and dialogue challenges entrenched beliefs and practices, fostering a new era of gender equality and human rights respect in Grand Gedeh County (WILDAF-AO).

Through its emphasis on education and dialogue, the Spotlight Initiative challenges deep-rooted beliefs and practices. It not only educates but also empowers communities to recognize and reject harmful traditions. Importantly, this initiative fosters new perspectives on gender equality and human rights.

Moreover, the program’s impact in Grand Gedeh County transcends mere awareness. It actively engages traditional leaders and community members in meaningful conversations. Consequently, these dialogues have sparked significant changes in attitudes and practices towards women and girls.

However, the journey is ongoing. Despite logistical and resource constraints, the initiative’s influence remains steadfast. Undoubtedly, the Spotlight Initiative’s role in Zwedru is pivotal. It sets a precedent for how global partnerships can effectively collaborate with local cultures to promote human rights and gender equality.

Local Challenges, Global Echoes

Despite Zwedru’s progress, the region faces logistical and resource constraints. These challenges, however, have not dampened the community’s commitment. Indeed, the initiative’s success in Zwedru resonates beyond Liberia’s borders. It serves as a beacon, demonstrating that cultural reform is achievable even with limited means.

This journey underscores a universal truth: transformative change often emerges from grassroots movements. As the world observes Zwedru’s achievements, it inspires other communities grappling with similar issues. The partnership between traditional leaders and global initiatives proves essential in promoting gender equality and safeguarding human rights.

Through perseverance, Zwedru’s example illuminates a path for others to follow. Its lessons extend beyond local boundaries, contributing to the global conversation on cultural practices and women’s rights.


This alliance between Zwedru’s traditional leaders and the Spotlight Initiative is a testament to the power of collaboration in cultural reform. It’s a beacon of hope for protecting women’s rights and well-being in Liberia and beyond.


  1. Spotlight Initiative.
  3. FrontPageAfrica.
  4. FrontPageAfrica.
  5. United Africa Royal Assembly.

About the author:

Darius Spearman is a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College, where he has been pursuing his love of teaching since 2007. He is the author of several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at