Activist Receives Human Rights Awards from Harvard University Affiliate

Liberian feminist, Naomi Tulay-Solanke has received the Dr. Fritz Redlich Global Mental Health and Human Rights Award from a program affiliated with Harvard University.

Tulay-Solanke was presented the award at a ceremony recently held on November 10 in Orvieto, Italy before the assembly of more than 60 international participants attending the Harvard Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery course, sponsored by Harvard Medical School.

She was nominated as this year’s recipient of the award after producing 300 sets of reusable sanitary pads for girls and conducting trauma training for 50 women in Margibi and Montserrado counties for Harvard Wellness, a component Harvard University’s Global Mental Health, Trauma and Recovery program.

The Dr. Fritz Redlich Human Rights Award recognizes outstanding members of the international community who have made significant contributions to the field of mental health and human rights at the local level.

Tulay-Solanke, who holds a graduate degree in Public Health, is a registered nurse and currently serves as executive director for Community Health Initiative. The organization provides healthcare and social services in underprivileged and slum communities in Liberia.

She told The Bush Chicken that through the programs, she nurtured a career in advocacy with an interest in working with underprivileged youth and slum dwellers in hard to reach communities. Her organization advocates on the behalf of and provides basic health and social services to women and girls.

In addition to Community Health Initiative, Tulay-Solanke runs the Winnie’s Pharmaceutical Store, which provides over-the-counter drugs and medical supplies to people in underprivileged and slum communities.

Photo courtesy of Harvard program for refugee trauma

To address problems with menstrual hygiene management affecting girls’ retention in schools and women empowerment, she said her team launched the “Pad4Girls” project. The project distributes locally made and reusable sanitary pads to help promote girls’ retention in school.

“CHI made a tremendous impact in the lives of rural women of Liberia, ranging from first-time voters education campaign to the provision of healthcare facility, women’s participation in decision-making and the production of reusable sanitary pads,” she said.

“Inhabitants of Bomboma District in Gbarpolu County are beneficiaries of the new clinic constructed by CHI with funding from [the National Oil Company of Liberia].”

She added that 100 girls and women in Nimba, Maryland, and Lofa can now produce their own sanitary pads after participating in training conducted by her organization.

She said CHI, through the support of ActionAid, also established at least 20 health clubs in 7 of the 15 counties in Liberia, while at the same time providing skills training to 50 women who survived Ebola.

While she did not disclose any cash reward associated with the award, Tulay-Solanke welcomed the international recognition, adding that it testifies to the work her organization does at the local level to improve communities and promote women’s rights.

“Even with all the many challenges that we face in a [deeply] patriarchal society like Liberia, we will rise, and our revolution will be uncovered as one of the strong women of Liberia,” she noted.

“We are going to continue to do our work, especially at the community level and empowered more women and girls.”

Tulay-Solanke recognized her partners, including ActionAid Liberia, the Gbowee Peace Foundation, the National Oil Company of Liberia, the Plan Parenthood Association of Liberia and the Danish Refugee Council.

Since the award was launched, several individuals, including Australian Aboriginal human rights activist Judy Atkinson; American pioneer of trauma-informed care, Susan Sulasin; and Chilean Poet, Majorie Agosin, have received the Dr. Fritz Redlich Global Mental Health and Human Rights Award.

Featured photo courtesy of Harvard program for refugee trauma

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is currently a senior student at the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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