When a civil crisis broke out in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast in 2003, thousands of lives
were plunged into uncertainty and instability. Still, people in those countries have come together to find solutions and build a better
future for all.
Volunteers for Sustainable Development in Africa (VOSIEDA), an organisation based in Liberia, has become a key role player in
alleviating extreme poverty, inequality, food insecurity and a lack of resources in its own country and the said West African nations
following the civil crisis.
Amanda Yarsiah, the programme development officer at VOSIEDA, said the organisation was established against this backdrop in
2003, and it had one mission in mind: to promote prosperity and reduce extreme poverty in the Mano River Union Basin.
The Mano River Union Basin is an international association covering Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It aims to unite
and enhance cooperation between the nations and bring peaceful coexistence among its people.
Yarsiah said that in the last 20 years, the organisation has been catering to the needs of the people through livelihood developments,
advocacy, capacity building and climate-smart agricultural activities in the rural parts of Liberia. She added that most of Liberia’s
population, especially women, live under extreme conditions of poverty, and alleviating this also falls as part of their mission as
“So, one of our key focuses is to alleviate the strain of poverty within our society, especially regarding the well-being and protection of women like you and I…Our vision is to envisage a healthy society and prosperous community committed to caring for nature and
where justice, dignity, and respect prevail for all of us, with no discrimination.”
VOSIEDA’s work is not limited to Liberia. It works with volunteers from the said West African regions, as well as others, to support
and uplift the lives of their fellow citizens. Yarsiah said volunteers are filed according to their specialities and interests, whether in
law, climate change, women empowerment, or food. She said the organisation has at least between 35 and 40 staff members, but
the volunteer base is much bigger, which drives massive impact.
“We welcome volunteers from anywhere around the world to join us in our fight to reduce poverty, to ensure people are cared for, to
ensure there is justice, to ensure there is dignity for all, to ensure that the world is alive to the people that live in it.”
The organisation works in various spaces but prides itself in its work to empower women. One is the empowerment of women
through food security. VOSIEDA has, for example, trained and enabled women to farm their produce to generate an income to
sustain themselves and their families without relying entirely on their male counterparts or spouses. They primarily cultivate cassava,
a kind of vegetable with multiple uses, and it is in high demand, which benefits women greatly.
Another social justice campaign by VOSIEDA seeks to provide high-quality litigation services to women journalists who have been
harassed, brutalised and intimidated while working. They also do advocacy work in other spaces for women:
“In terms of social justice, those are the ways in terms of social justice, we do advocacy for women, against rape, against
discrimination, against mockery. You know, the mockery of women, you know, in places as a result of diseases and poverty due to
their lifestyle,” Yarsiah said.
In addition to playing a pivotal role in the organisation, Yarsiah hosts her radio show, The Open Development Liberia Show, on the
state broadcaster ELBC. The show is sponsored by People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa (PVA Africa) and aims to create awareness
within the Liberia community on the importance of taking vaccines to save lives.
According to Our World in Data, 70.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but only 32.2%
of people in low-income countries have received at least one amount. As of 11 December 2022, Liberia has administered 4.46 million
vaccines (with no further data), while Ivory Coast had administered 25.26 million by 19 February 2023, Sierra Leone, 8.48 million by
4 June 2023 and Guinea, a measly 10.65 million by 2 April 2023, data shows.
Yarisiah said this six-month project supported by PVA Africa is about continuing the vaccine conversation, especially post-pandemic.
They discuss the significance of the Covid-19 vaccines, the Covid-19 test and Covid-19 treatments. They also focus on transparency
and accountability in the Covid-19 response process.
“We are concerned about looking at the transparency and accountability of funding or supplies that were given because if you don’t,
you know, discover you don’t recover,” she said.
They also invite stakeholders, including government officials, Civil Society Organisations, ordinary citizens, and health authorities, to
participate in the conversation.
She said that these open budget discussions create more opportunities for their government and the people worldwide, adding that
the conversations have helped people become more trusting of vaccines.
“So as a result of this particular show, people are saying, ‘okay, I’ll be vaccinated for the safety of my people, for my safety and for
my country – I’m going to be vaccinated.’”
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