Weasua is an artisanal diamond mining community that is located in the north-west region of Liberia, Gbarpolu County. Gbarpolu is one of the 15 political sub-divisions of Liberia. The major source of livelihoods in this community is artisanal diamond mining. Unlike many rural communities in Liberia, the residents are of different tribal groups as they are people who have come from different locations across Liberia and even from the neighboring countries including Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, etc. The diamond existence in the community has influenced all of these people to come and live in this community.
Diamonds for Peace (DFP) has been piloting a responsible diamond mining project including community development components. In order to smoothly work with all the stakeholders in this community, DFP encouraged miners to organize themselves into a cooperative and DFP has been working with them to implement the pilot project.
This community governance is structured so that there is a general town chief and other town chiefs of small towns, who are considered to be the assistants to the general town chief. There is a youth chairperson who represents the youth in the community, a women chairperson who represents the interest of the women, elder council, and the different tribes are sub-governed by their own tribal chiefs. There are also community based organizations (CBOs) such as the cooperative, the diggers’ group and the hygiene promotion committee (HPC). These different leadership structures are set in place for the promotion of peace and to enhance development in the community. Although the community is generally peaceful, and despite having the governance system set in place, its development is very slow. Over the years, the community has been viewed as one with many leadership issues.
Since 2018, DFP has observed that the community development is slow because many of the people in leadership had not understood the functions of their positions; some didn’t even know what it meant to be leaders. Many of them were lost in their leadership and found it challenging to successfully lead their groups. Some leaders admitted they didn’t understand the purpose of their positions, as the result they were not functioning properly. Many of the leaders in the community also lack accountability, and this has been one of the major impediments to the governance of the community and the CBOs. As a result, they have been lost and cannot serve the purpose of their offices, thus, their developments are being derailed.
Consistent with the leadership issue in this community, DFP developed and conducted a two-day leadership training to help the community leaders build on their existing knowledge to better understand what it means to be leaders, what the functions of the individual leaders are and how they can use their leadership to develop their community.
The two-day leadership training was held on 29th and 31st July, 2023. The training was attended by 36 participants from different groups in the community. Out of the 36 participants, 29 participants met the criteria for certification and they were certificated by DFP. Winston on behalf of DFP facilitated the leadership training.
The training participants
The training targeted a cross section of the community leadership which includes the leaders of the cooperative, the diggers’ group, the women’s group, the Hygiene Promotion Committee (HPC), and the community leaders including the tribal groups. This group of leaders were individually selected for the training because the leadership of the community is dependent upon them.
The details of the training
Considering the leadership gaps that DFP has observed over the years, the training was designed with the objectives to help the participating leaders understand the heights and limits of their offices, and their roles, and begin to use their offices to make better things happen in their community. Consistently, a brief summary of the training contents was discussed as mentioned below.
- Leadership is the ability of a person to influence and guide others towards a common goal or vision. They were made to understand that a good leader is someone who inspires and motivates his/her team members, communicates effectively and is accountable for his/her actions.
- Every group of people with common interest needs leaders to direct and lead the members in the way that benefits everyone. The leaders should be able to promote and keep the motivation of his/her team members, and make sure the team is on course with its development and management plans. They understood that the reason why people are given leadership positions is simply for them to make things happen; however, if a person in leadership cannot make things happen, then s/he is truly not a leader.
- They learned that a good leader is a selfless person, a person who inspires his/her team members; a good leader sets good examples; a good leader is a visionary, and s/he communicates clearly, a good leader is a person with integrity.
The participants’ response to the training
The participating leaders were very interested in the training and they demonstrated a high level of commitment to the process. They expressed delight for the training and labeled it as timely and important considering the many leadership issues they were facing. They participated well as was shown in their expressions (raising candid questions, responding to questions raised by the facilitator, and making relevant contributions to the training) throughout the two days training.
Following the two-days intensive leadership training, the participating leaders realized their weaknesses, and expressly admitted that they were not aware of many of the qualities a leader should possess in order to lead successfully. The participants promised to use the knowledge they have acquired from the training to make meaningful contributions to their teams and the community. Considering the level of participation and the honest admittance of weaknesses by the individual leaders, it’s widely believed that participants took home relevant information from the training. DFP is hopeful that the acquired leadership knowledge will be used to help the community development.
Action plans development
To ensure the acquired knowledge will benefit the community and its people, the leaders developed action plans. Below are some examples of the developed action plans.
- General Town Chief: I will work to make sure all the chiefs are united and be able to work together for the betterment of the community.
- Clan chief: I will always consult my people before doing things for development purpose.
- Cooperative: We will build and keep a cordial relationship with our team as it relates to information sharing, awareness raising and agenda implementation. We will also make sure to respect the views and ideologies of our team members in order actualize the dreams of the team.
DFP sees the above more like policies rather than action plans. However, please understand that they are still in the early stage to learn. DFP will monitor their actions and will address to develop detailed action plans as necessary.
Testimonies from some of the participating leaders
Varney (secretary to the clan chief)
I’m very much excited and grateful to DFP for bringing such important training to our attention. This training has taught me that leaders must be able to take tough decisions when it comes to policy issues; the leaders should not compromise the policy because of friendship, but I have seen that happen in this community on countless occasions. I think it is time that we as leaders in this community learn to take tough decisions when it necessary to do so in the interest of the community or the groups we are leading. A leader needs to be accountable to his followers, as accountability brings credibility and it makes a team stronger; and a leader should be able to communicate clearly to his/her team members in order to get tasks accomplished, are all very important lessons I learned during the training.
Bendu (leader of the women group)
I am feeling very good and empowered after receiving this training. This training has helped me to learn that I am only a leader if I am able to make things happen. I also learned that a good leader is a person who always consults with her team members for decisions. I am grateful to DFP for this great opportunity; now after receiving this knowledge, I will strengthen my team for big success by employing the leadership skills.
Momo (Weasua development chairperson)
This training was so good for us leaders in this community because we have spent years in Weasua, serving in different positions but we have not been improving. Some of the leaders have been wondering what is actually going on because their followers are not listening to them. This training helped me to understand that one of the major reasons why people don’t listen to their leaders in this community is because most of the leaders don’t hold themselves accountable to the people and they don’t have integrity. I learned that a good leader should be someone who sets good examples so the followers can follow. The coming of DFP to teach us how to function in leadership and what are the qualities we need to possess is something I call very crucial.
Victoria (diggers’ group chairlady)
This leadership was actually developed for leaders and citizens of Weasua. During the training, I learned a lot. One major thing I learned in the training that the facilitator stressed is that leaders should be selfless, but the majority of leaders in this community care more about themselves and not about the interest of the people they lead. As for me, I will use all the knowledge I have learned in this training to help the diggers group to improve.
Isatta (Weasua market superintendent)
This is the first DFP’s training I have attended in this community; every time DFP conducted training in this community. I haven’t attended previous sessions because DFP doesn’t pay people for participating in the training. On the first day of the training, I showed up just to observe what the training was going to be like; after sitting in the training for a few hours, I realized it was very crucial training for me as a leader, so I decided to attend the full two days. I was really overwhelmed by the facilitator’s presentation, and I can truly say that I learned so many good things that will help me become a good leader. I will do my best to adopt the good qualities of a leader and put these qualities into action.
The training established with the participating leaders that many of the issues they are facing in the community is at the result of poor leadership. They understood that the success of every community/team largely depends on the ability of the leaders to envision developments, build consensus with the people, strongly plan and implement the development agendas. The leaders realized their short comings in leadership and promised that going forward, they will use the acquired knowledge to better their community.
They expressed strong appreciation to DFP for providing the training and also asked for more training that will help them develop the skills to improve their community.
DFP will keep monitoring their actions and commitment and intervene as necessary.
Front Photo: Training participants post for photos after certification