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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

US Activist Helping Liberians Speak Boldly Beyond Criticism

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For decades, women have written the story of change in Liberia. Africa’s first female president took office in Liberia in 2006, and she worked on clearing out corruption and calming ethnic tension.

However, Liberia is also a place of powerful gender disparity. Women make up a large portion of the workforce but struggle for equality in education, ownership, and control and are also more likely to be the victims of violent crime.

Programs organized by the UN have focused on promoting equity in land ownership, but another new program helmed by the Foundation for Women Liberia believes that the country can lead change for all of Africa. The Center for Dialogue aspires to spread conversations of peace and progress across the continent.

Promoting Safe Conversations

Founded by Helen LaKelly Hunt in 2020, the Foundation for Women Liberia has been teaching dialogue and promoting Safe Conversations throughout Liberia. “As soon as dialogue training started in Liberia, it became clear that this simple yet powerful tool could transform schools and communities,” says Hunt.

“We’re honored to support the Center for Dialogue’s continued efforts to bring the language of connection and peace to the region, with the goal of reaching a tipping point of relational change throughout the nation that will expand across the continent.”

Pushing against the pressures of poverty and corruption, as well as working through the pandemic, the foundation reached schools, congregations, NGOs, and government agencies across the country.

The dialogue training behind Safe Conversations is based on the Imago Therapy process developed by Hunt alongside her husband, Harville Hendrix, PhD. Together, they also founded Quantum Connections, a company that offers methodologies for healthy connections in the workplace. The goal of the dialogue process is to empower people to speak openly and constructively, beyond criticism, judgment, and difference. This technique helps both individuals and communities connect, leading to more success in broader efforts to collaborate and promote inclusivity and peace.

Beginning a Dialogue for All of Africa

In late 2024, the Foundation for Women will launch the new Center of Dialogue in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Liberian President Joseph N. Bokai. “The establishment of The Center for Dialogue represents a critical step toward healing and growth,” says Hendrix, “Not just for Liberia, but for the entire African continent. Through the power of dialogue, the Center is empowering individuals and communities to transform conflict into collaboration and create a new narrative for their future.” The center will be a point of connection to promote fruitful conversations and collaborations across the continent, hosting meetings and conferences built on the practices of Safe Conversations.

“The Center for Dialogue is more than just a place,” says Hunt, whose efforts helped build a founding coalition that includes partners from Kenya, South Africa, Benin, and Sierra Leone, “It’s a movement toward unity, understanding, and connecting.

By gathering individuals from all nations to learn and share, the Center fosters a culture in which dialogue becomes the bridge to overcoming divisions and building lasting peace.”

Creating the Foundation for a Global Shift

“The vision of The Center for Dialogue is to make it a beacon for learning and collaboration,” says Hendrix. “Establishing this center lays the groundwork for a global shift toward healthier and more resilient communities through profound connection.”

While this center is meant to serve as the beginning of a relational shift in Africa, it is one part of an eventual global movement that could follow. Creating dialogues and achieving connections has been one of the greatest global challenges faced in recent history, so Hendrix and Hunt are addressing an existential human need for relational understanding.

Their goals, grounded in individual relationships, local communities, and the problems of national equity, grow naturally to international communication.

At the core of so many problems in the world is the basic need to understand and be understood, a problem for which Hendrix and Hunt have innovative solutions, represented now by the foundation of The Center for Dialogue.

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