By Randell Z. Dauda
Let me introduce you to another side of a society trying to rebuild itself after years of civil wars. An era where degrees means absolutely nothing when you have a look to accompany it You walk into an office with all the right credentials and you're asked "who's taking care of you" Sitting there, you start to think ‘Am I sick? Why do I need care?’
This is the normal way of asking who is your significant other, love interest or sponsor. In Liberia, a sponsor is usually someone giving you financial contributions that is significantly older than you and therefore does not meet the requirement for a boyfriend. I guess one can call the man-friend. These are the equivalent of sugar daddies in the West. To be sitting in front of a government official hoping you can land a position in Civil Service only to be asked about your personal life can be such a drawback. There were no talks about my experiences or job expectations. He did not inquire about areas of study or specializations. He did not even flip the pages of the resume. Instead, he commented on your "beautiful long legs" and his intention to take you to lunch. How could you continue this conversation with a degree of respect for his office without allowing him to harass you? The African culture reminds you to always be respectful to your elder, but right there in that room, was he even considered anything less than a poor excuse for a man? He continued to diverge the conversation with a focus on your personal wellbeing.
Your credential sits idly in the folder you purchased from the book store of your Alma matter in hopes of impressing your potential boss. Your mind runs through the pages of your resume with vast study abroad experiences, some volunteer work, a start-up social enterprise and a master’s degree that could serve as great conversation starters. Instead your look is the center of discussion. In what world does looks overshadow the fact that I'm a female with a master’s degree in a country where approximately 73%* of all women and girls are illiterate? So you sit and wait for the nightmare interview to be over. You keep starring at his face for a sign that this is all one big joke. Sadly, this is not a joke and you are reminded when he reaches over the desk in hopes of touching your hands. He makes shameless proposal to take you to lunch accompany with a crooked smile.
In a state of disgust, you pull your hands away and stand up to leave. In a regular interview this would have been considered rude, but this is no regular interview. Your concerns are not whether you are rude or a good candidate for the job. You leave because there has to be another way. You want to join the work force in Liberia desperately, but you will not compromise your values or join a culture where women can only become something because a man lets you. Today, you took the walk out of that office because you want to walk into a place where your merits elevate you and not your body. Today, you lost the opportunity to work towards change in Liberia, but you stumble across a motivation to strive for a better Liberia; a Liberia where you will be judge solely on your credentials. My name is Randell Z. Dauda and I am glad I took that walk in 2013. Today, I sit behind a desk at one of the only two government institutions of higher learning as the head Registrar. I got here because my education, experiences and worth ethics