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Bong County Senior Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor is no doubt one formidable icon in the rise of women to political stardom in post-war Liberia.
She has climbed to stardom not on silver platter, but through the ranks from a modest background.
Not only is she an influential lawmaker, she is also a leader of her people and is wearing the stripes for it – stripes recognizable from overseas.
She is celebrating her life jubilee tomorrow. In efforts to add flowers to that celebration, The Analyst traces whence she comes.
Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor celebrates her 50th natal day today, family sources say, with pomp befitting the heights she had climbed, her health, and her achievements.
The sources did not disclose the venue of the celebration; nor did it say what forms the pomp will take, or who the senator’s guests will be. Such information, the sources say, organizers prefer to hold to their chests in respect to the guests.
Observers however believe the venue is Monrovia and guests will include an array of legislative colleagues of the senator, cabinet-level officials of the Sirleaf Administration (President Sirleaf unlikely to be present), heads of diplomatic missions accredited near Monrovia, tribal and opinion leaders of Bong County, youth groups from the county, scores of well-wishers, family members, and friends.
“But just why so many dignitaries are expected to the senator’s jubilee celebration?” is the question many are asking.
Observers say the answer to this question lies not so much in the media promotion of the celebration, as it does with the person of the celeb (the lives she affected positively), the depth whence she climbed, and the accolades she garnered along the way.
The person of the celeb
The name Jewel Howard-Taylor is nationally and internationally known. Born unto the union of Mr. and Mrs. Moses Y. Howard on January 17, 1963 in the District of Zorzor, Lofa County Jewel’s father hailed from the Lorma ethnic group; while her mother Nora Mammie Giddings-Howard hailed from Sanoyea District, Bong County.
Jewel’s Great Grandfather was the late King Kerkula Giddings, from the Royal Giddings household of the then Central Province. Jewel is of royal linkage as one of the Princesses of Sanoyea District: she is a devout Christian who is privileged to be accepted by all Christian denominations.
She is former First Lady of the Republic of Liberia and is mother to four children and two grandchildren. Jewel Howard-Taylor is Senior Senator of the Republic of Liberia representing Bong County.
The Bong County Senior Senator is a graduate of the College of West Africa, one of Liberia’s prestigious secondary schools. At an early age, Jewel presented a personage for leadership and sensitivity to issues above her peers.
This was soon to be realized as she grew up and began, exemplifying leadership traits. With studiousness and commitment towards a brilliant future, she enrolled at the University of Liberia and attained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1984.
Understanding the economic and intellectual challenges of the future she took advantage of an available opportunity to travel to the USA where she studied Banking at the American institute of Banking in New Jersey and obtained another Bachelor’s degree with Honors in 1991, and in 1992, she obtained a Master’s degree in professional banking with Honors.
Between 1996 and 1997, Jewel Howard served the Republic in two challenging areas of Government. She was appointed President of the Agriculture Cooperative Bank in 1996 and as Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Liberia which is now the Central Bank of Liberia in 1997.
For Jewel, it was an opportunity to apply what she had learned. Her career in Banking was short lived due to greater state responsibility imposed on her as Liberia’s 21st First Lady in 1997 she was compelled to leave the banking sector for state responsibilities.
In 2003, Mrs. Jewel Howard-Taylor returned to private life but remained very active as a stateswoman. In 2005, she contested for the seat of Senator and won the highest votes in the County’s Senatorial race.
She became Senior Senator of Bong County with 9 year tenure and a platform to insure changes in the county’s educational, healthcare and women empowerment sectors. Senator Taylor has been, since then, an outstanding voice in the Senate and the Republic.
She has and continues to have great impact on her constituents and the general public by her objective representation and positive contributions to national issues and discussions; and working to improve the lives of Bong County citizens, especially the youth.
In her quest for greater output at the Liberian Senate Senator Taylor enrolled at the Cuttington University for yet another Master’s degree, in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.
She graduated Cum Laude in 2007. She is referred to as a Senator with an unquenchable quest for education; with two masters, two bachelors and a degree in Law graduating Magnum Cum Laude from the Nation’s premier Institute, The Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. With all of these accolades she has put in place plans to pursue education in International Relations.
In the 52nd Legislature, she served in many capacities; but currently serves as a Member of the Joint Legislative Modernization Committee; Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Autonomous Commissions and Agencies with oversight over key government institutes like the National Elections Commission; Governance Reform Commission; and Public Procurement Commission amongst other.
She also serves as member of the committees on Gender and Development, Health, Social Welfare; Judiciary, Claims and Petition; Education and Public Administration and is a ranking member of the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget in the 53rd Legislature.
Senator Taylor is an advocate of many national programs, which include, but are not limited to women’s rights arid children welfare; educational and youth empowerment; HIV/AIDS programs and humanitarian services among others.
Her strongest voice is on the Rule of Law, Peace Building, Reconciliation and Unity. Her advocacies and active involvement in being a catalyst for transforming lives and improving national politics, especially her commitment to education, have earned her a seat and voice in many organizations few of which are Vice President, Board of Trustees, University of Liberia; Liberian Red Cross; Rural Women Association of Liberia; Greater Monrovia Lions Club; Order of Eastern Star, Republic of Liberia; Board of Directors/Federation of Liberian Youths; Bong County Women Association and YMCA, and the Bong County Bar Association.
Politically, Senator Taylor has been actively involved in party politics. As a skilled community organizer and stabilizer, she helped to resuscitate the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and was elected as Standard Bearer and Political Leader during its convention in 2011.
Her political skills enabled her to encourage her party to collaborate with the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in the 2011 general elections, which resulted in increasing the number of Senators and Representatives from the NPP in the Liberian Legislature.
Senator Taylor has received many accolades, laurels and awards which include distinctions, nominations, and recognition from local, national, and international organizations. Notable amongst them are: An African Leadership Award., Outstanding Africa Female Leader of the Year from the African Leadership Award Magazine in 2012; An Excellence Award in Recognition of her Advocacy for the Rights of Women from the African Women in Leadership Organization(AWLO) in 2012; The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Presidential Recognition Award for Humanitarian Services and contribution to Youth Development in Liberia from the (AAW Peace) African & American Women in 2011; The African Woman of Influence and Leadership award as the 2009 African Woman of Distinction; National Service Award for Excellence in 2011; Certificate of Distinction from the Liberian Senate as Outstanding Committee Chairman on Autonomous Commission and Agencies-201 1; James P. Grant Hall of Fame Award, for Extraordinary Community Service-2001; Knight Great Dame, Order of the Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers, African Woman of Distinction 2009 and UMOJA Civic Award for Outstanding Community Service.
Others are: Member, Honors Society, University of Liberia; Charles Niebling Award for the Highest Academic Achievement-1991-1992; Liberia’s Goodwill Ambassador on HIV/AIDS; the Most Distinguished Female Philanthropist Award and Venerable Chief – a Chieftaincy title conferred on her by Traditional Chiefs, Elders and Leaders of Bong County.
Senator Taylor is a grass rooter and strong believer in multiparty democracy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law. The adorable yet intense Senator/Politician loves children and continues to strive for women, children and youth empowerment. She is indeed a promising leader aid a potent voice in the politics of the Nation.
As a result of her more than 15 years of experience, she unlike most politicians has a privilege to be able to cut across political, social and ethnic lines. Senator Taylor remains a strong voice for change and progress in our Nation; and is considered one of those who could continue to lead our Nation into the 22nd century.
Because of her passion and commitment for a better and more equitable nation for all Liberians, she is often referred to as the “People’s Senator”.
The ‘People’s Senator” might have seemingly focused her magnanimity to the cause of rebuilding Liberia and healing its people, but her fame resonated with the outside world, earning her enviable accolades.
For instance in 2012, the authoritative Newsweek Magazine called her the 2nd most powerful female politician in Liberia and an outstanding peace crusader perhaps behind 2011 Nobel Peace laureates President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and women rights advocate, Leymah Gbowee.
Newsweek Magazine is a media institution with reputation that precedes it. Judgmental wise, it just doesn't heap positivity and accolades individuals without indebt investigations and convictions.
Its consideration of news items and feature of personalities has no frivolous link nor does it tolerate platitudes as third world media institutions. Bureau chiefs and feature writers' search for newsmakers have always been in categories ranging from respectable to notorious world leaders and people who change the course of the world.
When at all this magazine should capture less conspicuous people, its concentration is usually a negative script written on individuals or civilizations considered under its human interest stories or denigrating stories. Of course, the editorial boardroom must certify the story.
The Magazine June 4 & 11 2012 edition seems to be a special focus on personalities well researched who are transformers of world politics and shakers of the society in which they live. The two chosen newsmakers to grace the above edition are Queen Elizabeth II of England and Jewel Howard Taylor of Liberia.
This edition, in the view of many analysts, is not in the ordinary. "With the revered Queen on the cover with four pages allocated to her and with the Liberian Senator given six pages positively dedicated to her, Newsweek might be conveying a message to Liberians that needs attention," concludes a political strategist.
But why did this reputable and powerful world-power magazine choose Senator Taylor as a worthy news maker with her Majesty on the cover? Why do the two features carry conspicuous links?
Analysis of experts who discerns Newsweek Magazine outputs inform this columnist that the U.S. giant media institution decided to run a profile on two notable women that withstood adversities and overcame them when the world expected them to shrink under protruding and depressive burdens.
It was a thorough research done by Newsweek to identify the British Queen and Liberia's former First Lady. Both women shared common experiences though of different dimensions and horizons.
At age 26, Princess Elizabeth was still enjoying the life of a princess not expecting the great responsibility of governance especially so, at a critical time when Britain had just come from the pressure of war and had lost much of its empire and subjected to food rationing and austerity measures.
Her uncle Edward VIII was expected to sit on the throne after the death of Princess Elizabeth's ailing father King George VI. But he abdicated the throne by marrying Wallis Simpson, according to the Newsweek.
Great Britain is said to have been doubtful whether the young princess was capable of providing leadership at that critical time of British history. She braved into the leadership by being coroneted though Sir Winston Churchill expressed doubts of her fitness.
But the Princess was able to restored hope to Great Britain. 60 years later, the British Queen has demonstrated that in the mist of adversities and un-expectancies, there is hope and the power of resolve to forge ahead and alter courses.
The profile of this great woman, which reflects her past, is intended to provide direction and hope to despaired women.
Similarly, Newsweek Magazine's six-page feature on Jewel Howard Taylor presents a story of a greatly troubled woman whose life and future became complex and complicated – not by reasons of her own – but by alleged decisions and actions of Liberia's 22nd President whose wife she became.
The magazine revealed that Jewel lived in an environment shrouded by secrets, violence, subterfuge, and wars. More than that, it revealed the passion of a woman who believed in justice, democracy, and development; but caught in a triangle of love, politics, and military struggles -all in which she became an unknowing victim. Was there a future for her and the kids? Would she brace the challenges to forge ahead and alter course as the Young Princess?"
Newsweek reports that she forsook prosperity and rejected wealth at her divorce. She has been sanctioned by the international community; opposed un-necessarily; and forced into opposition by circumstances. Under these depressive conditions, Jewel seems not to be the despaired woman expected.
She contested the race for the Senate in 2005 and defeated other contestants with the highest votes; thus claiming the Senior Senator position. Newsweek research has placed her as one of the crucial voices in the Senate.
The Bong County Senior Senator holds two masters degree and bagged a law degree from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia with Magna Cum. The power of resolve and moving interest in people has led to what Newsweek Magazine has described as “well liked across party lines."
Regardless of the turn of event in her bid to cling the position of President Pro-Tempore in a one-vote advantage lead by Unity Party supported candidate, Newsweek reports that Jewel "doesn't see President Sirleaf as an enemy."
But to describe her as the second most powerful woman in Liberia after Ellen is an introduction of Jewel by Newsweek to the world of a woman they should expect to lead this West African state one day or perhaps after Ellen.
Says Newsweek Magazine, "There is no special political treatment she enjoys. Senator Taylor remains one of the most respected senators and important politicians in the country. She is well liked across party lines and was the first opposition member to recognize Johnson Sirleaf's Government after the push to boycott the recent elections which was marked by violence."
The Magazine further notes, "There is now speculation that Jewel could even run for the president herself one day. Her term expires in 2014. If she wins reelection- the battle is expected to be tough-she would be in a good position to run in the presidential elections of 2017." Newsweek quotes Maryland Senior Senator John Ballout, Jr. as saying, "Jewel is no longer seen as Taylor's ex-wife. After years of working together, we see her less and less as a former first lady."
Analysts presume that with this newfound interest in Jewel by a super power magazine, questions and debates may resume- this time outside the perimeters of Liberian politics -but within the international community as to whether the continued travelling sanction placed on her by the Security Council is still justified.
Some citizens of Liberia spoken to say it is an honor for Liberian women to be recognized by international sources and to be covered by a Magazine considered so prestigious. "First we came into international prominence through President Sirleaf; and now Newsweek's coverage of Senator Taylor on par with the British Queen is stupendous," says a source.
When spoken to, Senator Taylor says, "My commitment to peace, unity, reconciliation, women and youth empowerment as well as democracy shall always be the hall mark of my political pursuit. There is currently a lot to do to move Liberia forward and I shall work along with President Sirleaf so that jointly we can give our people what they deserve. I am thankful to Newsweek Magazine and to Clair MacDougall for the Newsweek feature."
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