Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Arts and Accountability in Liberia

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On my close to 4 hours daily commute to Central Monrovia, I enjoy listening to the morning and evening talk shows on the radio – especially the truth breakfast show and the Costa Show. A significant chunk of what you hear on these shows centers around the public frustration of the government and its agents. Citizens spew insults at lawmakers, cabinet ministers and even the president who is highly revered across the globe. Considerably, as an aspiring change-maker, I do not embrace the denigration of any leadership, because through experience, one understands the complexities of leading, especially in a developing economy like ours.  From childhood, we are taught to venerate our leaders or anyone in authority. This idea, in argument, has been engrained into our moral paradigms to an extent that people conform to gullibility over inquisitive cynicism and questioning their government/leaders. Leaders are given responsibilities, fail to perform and walk away with impunity. This is no news! However, I think it is reasonable to infer that this mentality is changing given the current state of advocacy and non-violent marches. This change is coming at snail pace and the few who are at the forefront risk their personal security in a country where the police and justice systems are marred by corruption and inaction. How else do you talk about accountability? Well, the Accountability Lab, where I’m interning this summer, seemed to have figured out this puzzle – to a larger extent. I believe one has to get “creative” in order to discuss and promote issues of accountability and that’s exactly what the Accountability Lab has done.

The Accountability Lab is driven by a powerful goal- to empower citizens in Liberia to build creative tools for integrity and accountability in their communities. The team provides training, mentorship, networks, management support and seed funding for the development of low-cost, high-impact ideas for positive change. By enabling Liberians to use information and knowledge to hold their government responsible, the Lab is finding innovative ways to unlock the rich potential for political and economic development.

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Just last week, the lab held two events where it used visual arts to promote a dialogue on accountability. The first of two events was a film festival that saw amateur filmmakers across Liberia create short films on the deadly Ebola crisis. This event was attended by high-level officials in Liberia, including the British, U.S. and French Ambassadors, and other prominent Liberian figures. These short films revealed the personal struggles, fears, and cultural conundrums faced by every Liberian, including the government, during the peak of the Ebola crisis and highlighted the significance of accountability in curbing the spread of the virus. The message was clear, creative, and absorbed by the audience. This type of accountability advocacy works!

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The second event was an arts exhibition that saw some of the finest local artists produce paintings to capture key accountability issues – injustice, corruption, sex for grades, etc. For those who appreciate the arts, this was an event brought people closer to an almost real experience of the issues presented in each painting. For me, the paintings about education, especially the one attached, brought feelings of irritation, frustration but more importantly, it boosted my passion for education improvement in Liberia.

The Lab is adding tremendous value to the ongoing rebuilding process in Liberia and I’m fortunate to be part of the work this summer.

Up next: The Launch of Integrity Idol